Chapter 1: Start
"You got to be kidding me," Namjoon mumbles under his breath after he confirms he's closed the door of his boss's room and he was all alone. Bang PD-nim was a man full of creative ideas, but he'd pushed this one too hard. Have I been a good employee? Have I been making correct life choices? Did I do something to corrupt the economy? Because he sure as hell didn't know anymore.
Fists jammed into the bottom of his pant pockets, Namjoon angrily walks out of the Big hit office building and breathes in the chilly Seoul air. He looks up to see the old graying building. The sky grows dark, and the clouds start to rumble. Maybe it was really time for a change.
Namjoon loved Bang and all the staff. He'd loved the freedom, the support that Bang gave to his underground activities and song writing. He'd loved the guys he'd lived with for the past three years, but he just couldn't see it anymore; what Bang had originally promised a young Namjoon when he was plucked off the streets. He couldn't see what was ahead of him or his dream. Especially with the new member. A young boy who appeared much smaller and weaker than Jungkook, coming up to join them so suddenly.
Everything was clouded.
‘This is already a permanent change.’ Bang had replied firmly, when Namjoon attempted arguing back. ‘I expect you to relay this message to the others.’
Oh, how the others were going to react...
"Are you sure about this, PD-nim?" The girl asks carefully as she looks up at the tall man from the corner of her eyes. "He’d completely mistaken me for a boy..."
"Yes, Jimin-ah. It's a good choice. You're going to be all right, and it's going to keep you safe." He says with a warm smile. “Sejin will take you to the dorms tomorrow morning. I imagine you've packed all of your things?”
Jimin nods, gulping down on air, worry, fear... The cool AC wind that hit her face made her feel clammy. “Thank you... for this opportunity,” she manages to say. "You won't regret your choices". Her own voice comes crashing down on her, like a thousand shards of glass. Every little piece piercing through her soft pale skin, making the crimson drip.
“That’s the spirit,” Bang says and claps her shoulders gently. “This is where you’ll begin."
Jimin bows, then quickly takes her black hoodie off the coat rack before scurrying off to the bathroom. Don’t be afraid.
She was terrified.
Looking at her own reflection in the bathroom, she sighs. She quickly scrubs off any trace of makeup with her fingertips and ties her long hair (that she hid in her shirt when she met Namjoon) into a high ponytail. Then, she rips off the baggy sweats Bang had given to her, revealing a mid-length checkered skirt. Jimin stuffs the pale blue sweats in her gym bag, and leaves. She walks out of the building, hood on, and walks past Namjoon, who she hears cursing to himself. He must seriously hate me.
Avoiding him at any cost, she darts to her apartment.
‘I should seriously call her before anything more happens,’ she thinks to herself.
“Okay... so the reason why I called you all up here is for an announcement,” Namjoon says as he internally groans to himself. He scans across the room. In the small living slash kitchen space, are 5 familiar faces all cramped together. Yoongi and Hoseok, his two longest acquaintances and best friends, are casually sharing an arm chair, looking bored as Namjoon spoke. The maknaes on the couch, or the inseparable Jungkook and Taehyung, sit on both sides looking anxious. And lastly, Seokjin, the oldest, sits cross-legged on the ground, smiling sweetly, encouraging Namjoon to make his announcement.
Namjoon takes a deep breath. Here we go...
“As you may all know, Bang PD-nim called me up this morning for some major changes,” he says, taking another deep breath. He balls his fists in his pockets one more time. “...he wants to add a seventh member.”
Namjoon gulps, and a hush falls over the room. He looks around to see the expressions painted on his members’ faces. They range from worry, to shock, to anger. Mostly anger.
"I can't believe it,” Yoongi says angrily as he throws his hands into the air. “We were going to debut. New member means more time. AGAIN. At this point, we’re never going to make it.”
A lump guilt forms at the back of Namjoon’s throat. This was not the news he wanted to share to the boys who he’d been spilling his blood, sweat, and tears with. This was not the kind of news…
“We’ve waited a long time,” Hoseok says quietly. The maknaes fall silent as they watch the elders vent.
“I know... but PD-nim said it was final orders, and there's nothing we can do about it" Namjoon frowns. "I told Sejinie hyung too, and he’s pretty positive about having a seventh member."
"I don’t want to hear any of this right now" Yoongi mutters as he stands up to leave, followed by Hoseok, then the maknaes. They all file out, frustrated, into their shared bedroom.
The rigid air lingers in the small living room.
"It just won't go the way we want it to, huh" Seokjin says in the empty living room. Namjoon tiredly sets himself down next to his hyung on the ground and can't help but nod.
It was Seokjin's 4th time having their debut delayed.
"Yoongi and Hoseok become like this every time, Joonie. Everything will be alright" Seokjin lightly pats Namjoon's head, and he finds himself leaning into his hyung's shoulder for comfort. But he couldn't nod. It almost felt like a breaking point.
The next morning, Namjoon and the others are awoken by their doorbell.
"Jungkook-ah...." One of the members mumble, as the doorbell doesn't seem to stop ringing. Groggily, Jungkook stands up and slumps over towards the opening hallway. Expecting their manager Sejin hyung or a delivery guy, Jungkook carelessly opens the door, only to see a pale figure, dressed in all black, standing on the other side.
Unlike the street style the boy's dressed in, his features were soft and round. His eyes were shaped like teardrop gems, and his lips were plump and baby pink. His hair is too long for Jungkook's liking, but it's cute how his bangs fall over his eyes. He looked like a child. A baby.
And the boy looks up, straight into Jungkook's eyes with pure innocence.
"I'm Park Jimin... I guess I live here now?"
The new boy.
"Uh... cu-come in."
When Seokjin walks into the kitchen, he sees an unfamiliar boy seated next to Jungkook in the living room. Jungkook seems to have brewed him some watery chocolate... or (should it be called chocolate-y water?) and the other boy's eyes twinkle in amazement.
"Wow... this is really good. Thank you, Jungkook." The boy exclaims. Seokjin internally laughs when Jungkook awkwardly nods his head.
"I didn't know you had friends Jungkook" Seokjin comes into the kitchen saying jokingly. But Jungkook's face pales. "Huh? Is something wrong?"
"Uh... actually, I think he's our seventh member, Park Jimin."
"Wha--...Oh..." The boy bows timidly to Seokjin.
"I-I'm Park Jimin. Nice to meet you"
He reminds me of a kicked puppy.
When Seokjin runs back to the bedroom to tell the others, it seemed that they had already taken notice of the surprise visitor.
"Holy heck. I didn't think he'd come today?" Hoseok says with a surprised look. Yoongi on the other side of the room scratches his head and angrily pulls off his pajamas top.
"Well... I guess you guys have figured it out then" Seokjin mutters and quickly undresses himself like the others to get ready.
"I can't believe Sejin hyung would just drop him off like that. Suitcase and all," Yoongi angrily whispers. Namjoon gives off a helpless shrug. He must not have known either.
"How are we going to explain to that kid that we don't want him" Yoongi whispers a little too loudly. Taehyung freezes shocked at how blunt Yoongi is about the newcomer. But Seokjin just rolls his eyes.
"He already does, Yoongi. He probably wants to be out of this situation as much as we do"
Chapter 2: dorms
1 day ago---
Sitting in her empty apartment, Jimin sighs, and looks up at the lonely ceiling fan.
The apartment had been her home for almost 3 years now.
She sits quietly as she reminisces back to the times she and her girlfriend sat under this ceiling fan to eat ice cream together. Or the time they set up a small tent and had a mini "camp-out" in her apartment for Christmas. This place had sunk into her and had become a tender place in her heart. And now, she had to leave it. It felt surreal.
Jimin turns on her phone and dials the first number in her recent: Hwang Eunbi <3. She responds on the first ring.
"Eunbi?" Jimin asks to confirm she's not on an empty line.
"Mm... hey Minnie" Eunbi speaks in her normal tone, tender and gentle. Jimin could feel her chest warming, relaxing, and she chuckles. Simply hearing Eunbi's voice gave her a surge of comfort.
"Hey... I think I need your help with something" She says and soon hears shifting from the other side. "When are you getting out of your lessons?"
"I'll be at your place in an hour Minnie~ prepare some dessert for me"
"I will bun, love you"
"Are you being serious right now, Jimin?" Eunbi exclaims with a worried expression. She had rushed in from her lesson to find a teary Jimin in the bathroom with a pair of scissors to her luscious hair. Eunbi had at once confiscated the scissors, but apparently, cutting her hair was one of the reasons she had been called.
"Bang told me that if I don't take this opportunity, he can't help me anymore." Jimin pursed her lips and looked away from the younger. Jimin was kind and sensitive, Eunbi loved her for that. She was always the smiley mochi with a strong heart. It hurt Eunbi to see her in such pain.
Unable to find the words to comfort her, Eunbi pulls Jimin's thin arms in for a hug. Jimin wraps both arms around the other girl like a koala. They stay tangled in each other’s embraces, and Eunbi holds Jimin tighter when she feels her warm tears falling on her shoulder. Her breath hitching.
"You didn't deserve this, Jiminie..." She says, “It’s because of hi—"
Jimin shakes her head and cuts the younger off, "Maybe I don’t...but Bang's giving me a chance. And it may be my only one."
Jimin whispers in fear, in sorrow, in worry of the things she would leave behind, and for the things to come. And Eunbi sat beside her, comfortingly.
It was all she could do to help the other girl.
Back to present time--
Namjoon stood in front of Jimin in surprise. Skinny jeans, black converse and all, he appeared different. His hair was shorter now, his bangs neatly cut in a curved line (almost like a coconut). With the bangs, his squishy cheeks stood out. He looked even younger than before.
Namjoon shook his head at the thought of himself finding the new comer cute. He hadn't heard a word from Bang, and this was too sudden. Jimin being in their apartment this early in the morning.
Namjoon sets himself on the couch besides the younger.
"Why did he send you this early in the morning?" He asks. The boy looks at Namjoon, and he can see how his eyes were wavering, glossing at the sudden attention.
"PD-nim said it'd be better if I came earlier... so, Sejinie hyung dropped me off" He says as he rubs his hands together. The younger bites his lower lip at that and looks innocently into the elder’s eyes.
Sitting on the couch, Jimin felt stiff. She'd just talked to the lanky Namjoon guy, and he probably hated her guts. Hands in her lap, legs pressed together, Jimin looks around the shabby apartment. Maybe a few square feet larger than her own, the rooms looked like they were barely held together with the plastered walls and overflowing amount of stuff.
One kitchen-living space. One bathroom and shower. One bedroom. Looks... splendid. Jimin couldn’t miss her apartment more than she already did.
The kitchen was quite nice, though. She saw the silver utensils and glass plates dried on the racks. Someone must have brought them from home, she thought. The reason being, she couldn't imagine Bang (no offense) supplying such stylish silverware for a cave of guys. Nope. Not at all. And they didn't supply them for her either. Flashback to the plastic knives and forks she'd washed in her kitchen sink.
She shifted as she sat and saw the crowded dorm slowly coming to life. She sees a boy, probably younger than herself, awkwardly acknowledging her while they passed by the kitchen to go use the washroom. Then a grouchy pale face. A stiff face. Lanky Namjoon. Then the 2 boys who had reluctantly greeted her at the door; Seokjin and Jungkook.
In her hand, she feels her phone vibrating. Looking down at the display, she sighs. It was PD Bang's name along with 2 other names attached to the message: Sejin Oppa and Hyunjin unnie
((Group MMS - Bang Sejin Hyunjin Jimin))
I forgot to tell you that Jimin's gender will only be disclosed to only you guys for the time being.
Jimin is debuting as a boy.
We aren't taking the co-ed marketing track.
But shouldn't we tell the members?
For the time being. No.
...Thank you for the notice
We will abide by this for now
Not knowing how or if she should respond, Jimin types a quick thank you and sends the text.
Well... I guess it's just going to get harder from here.
Taehyung shifts uncomfortably as his shoulders bumps the newcomer. It was jam packed in Sejin’s van, and the road to Big Hit wasn’t necessarily a smooth one.
“Sorry...” Taehyung says under his breath, but it seems that either the new boy had ignored him or couldn’t hear what he had just said.
Taehyung silently examines Jimin’s side profile as he glances out the window. The boy's features were soft. His lips, a healthy light pink shade, were plump and round. His forehead had a nice curve that lead to the dip where his small nose was. It made Taehyung want to trace from the top of his head, down to the tip of his nose with his finger. To poke it. Which... if thought with any bit of consciousness... was not a choice to be considered. Taehyung could imagine Jimin looking at him funny, judging. He shook the image out of his head.
I just wish all of this could be easier.
For us. For him.
Chapter 3: lessons
The dance room was crowded, for the first time in forever. Or that was how Jimin felt with 7 others in the room. After Big Hit had slowly transferred all their girl trainees to other companies, Jimin had been all alone during lessons. Scheduling her lessons around the 6 boys, she had her one-on-one training.
Solitary dance lessons weren't as bad as what she had imagined when she saw the others slowly leaving one by one. But she had missed the clouded mirrors and shared sweat and tears. Although this was in no shape or form that she had expected to share a lesson room with another person again, it felt refreshing, and it put her mind off the whole mess for once. Dancing was how she expressed herself, and how she breathed. Even the dank air felt less suffocating when she danced.
Lining in front of the mirrors along with the others, she watches Hoseok carefully explain the daily dance routine.
They were doing the same routine she had been used to, but she patiently nodded as Hoseok went into detail. Standing in one of the corners of the room, she positions herself to see her own reflection in the mirror and followed the movement around her.
Jimin had taken notice that even from simply looking at how they were built, Hoseok was the most experienced in the art. His stature screamed “hip hop.” Jungkook and Taehyung seemed quite new to dance but showed immense potential. Taehyung was careful with his moves, and Jungkook seemed to be critical about the tiniest details and expressions. Overall, the six boys seemed to fit well together. Even if there were areas of improvement, the team seemed stable (considering the big picture), and Jimin couldn't help but wonder…
Where were the cracks that she could fill in?
The dance room reeked of sweat and tears and barf, like always. But today, felt much, much worse.
Taehyung watched as Jimin gracefully leaped and flowed across the floors. He was a dancer. A modern dancer. Jimin was quick and fast, but he was also gentle. From the start, he could see how the boy embraced the music with his dance. It seemed as if the music notes were smiling at the short boy as they penetrated through his soft, pale skin. He was flawless.
The way his sweat rolled off his forehead. The way he happily smiled after five hours of gruesome dance practice. The way he didn't even smell bad, but gave off a fresh flower-y scent... The way he blushed and looked down at his toes when Hoseok genuinely complimented his dancing.
He was squishy. He was humble. And he even smelled good. God, Taehyung couldn’t pull himself together to hate him.
And it hurt. It hurt Taehyung's pride, and it put a new load of stress on his shoulders. What if they added a new member to kick another out? He was on the verge... Shit... Bang PD-nim didn't even properly know his full name. Anything could happen.
Yoongi was not happy about the new boy. He didn’t like the kid the moment he saw him sitting in the living room. He hated the kid, because he made his heart melt. He hated the kid because he looked so darn soft and huggable. (It was more like he hated himself for thinking that.)
When the kid quickly bowed to him when he came out of his shower this morning, Yoongi had caught the way the boy’s lower lip trembled. How the boy looked innocently and nervously into his eyes, and it made Yoongi's heart squeeze.
But Yoongi shook his head. He ignored the boy. He didn’t welcome him in. He didn’t acknowledge him. Because that was who he was. Gloss. Suga. The spit fire rapper who came from the streets of Daegu. The fierce and charismatic Min Yoongi. Pride kicked him in the shins. He couldn’t go full on domestic just because a cute little kid appears at his dorms. He was here for his dream, and he was here to make music. He couldn’t be wavering.
That was why Yoongi let go of an anxious sighed as he saw the boy’s effortless pirouettes on the dance floor. He could feel himself being pulled in by the young boy’s charisma. It was undoubtedly the “hidden sparkle” that Bang had found during his audition. The boy was going to get in their way of their debut day, but Yoongi couldn’t help but want Jimin on the team, feel like Jimin was worth the wait. Deep inside, he knew that if him and the guys made it… if and only if they did… Park Jimin would be an amazing contribution to the team.
Chapter 4: wavering
"So... this is all you brought?" Jungkook asks Jimin with a shocked tone. The little boy (who happened to be almost two years older than himself) had packed only a single cardboard box for all his belongings. From it, came out a few hair ties, a pillow, a few shirts, a few pairs of pants, a towel, and a toothbrush. Nothing more.
"I also have my computer and my dance bag" Jimin says with a shrug.
I guess we will still be space in the dorms. Jungkook thought to himself.
Surprisingly, their first lesson with Jimin went by smoothly. No arguments. No difficulties. Nada. All that was left in Jungkook’s memory was how overwhelmingly good the older was at dancing, and how he was caught by surprise at how much passion could spew out of such a tiny frame. Jungkook could still feel how his heart swelled with emotion when he saw Jimin twirl and prance across the room as a “free style” exercise Hoseok gave.
Although there wasn’t much conversation between Jimin and the other six, they (including Jungkook himself) seemed to quickly understand why Bang had chosen Jimin. He was a performer, and he’d be a good part of the stage.
“So, I’m guessing you’re like an all-rounder?” Jungkook asks, and Jimin’s eyes open wide.
“Oh no… I wish,” he says sheepishly. “I’m not like you, Jungkook.”
Jungkook is taken by surprise by the elder’s sudden compliment.
But how did Jimin know about him??
“So those dishes are probably yours, right?” A voice from behind asks. An unfamiliar one, and Seokjin whips his head around. Right. New kid.
Seokjin was exhausted from the lesson, but he was in the kitchen again. Being the only capable cook of the house, he had no choice. He didn’t expect the newbie to butt in.
“Huh?” Seokjin asks, not fully understanding what the younger had asked.
“Oh... did you bring those plates and cups from home?” Jimin repeats himself in a softer tone. How did he know? “Uh... it’s just that... it doesn’t seem like Bang Pd-nim or any of the uppers would necessarily provide their trainees with vintage white china” He says with an embarrassed smile. Huh... so that’s why his mom was upset about taking her cups. And how the kid knows just by a quick glance? “Anyways... I wanted to ask if there was anything I could help out with”
Seokjin looks at the scattered vegetable bags and meat and sink.
Yes. He could use some of that.
“Thanks, Jimin” The younger shakes his head and immediately takes a knife and a potato to start skinning it.
Conclusion: Jimin was good at dance and has a cute and innocent smile. PLUS, he helped Seokjin prepare for dinner. Therefore, Jimin was a good kid. Seokjin approved.
A phone rang in the middle of dinner, and Jimin bowed as she scurried out of the kitchen to pick it up. She excuses herself and opens the front door of the mansion to talk outside.
Eunbi had promised to call after her lesson today, and out of all honestly, Jimin needed to talk. Today had been both mentally and physically exhausting.
"Hello?" She says as she puts the phone near her ears. She can hear the younger girl breathing on the other line. Just her presence... makes the older crumble. But she tries not to show it.
Clearing her throat, Jimin opens her mouth to speak when... She senses that something isn’t right.
"...Eunbi-yah? Are you alright?" Jimin asks uncertainly. Her voice regains her regular calmness. She was the older one after all. She had to be in place.
"Y-yeah... sorry Jiminie... don't worry... it's... nothing" Jimin closes her eyes as she hears the younger quietly trying to suppress her whimper on the other line. The sound pulls on her heart.
“Why are you crying, bun?” Jimin asks softly again. “Can we facetime?” Jimin hears Eunbi meakly whisper ‘yes’, and without hesitation, Jimin switches her phone camera on.
When Jimin’s kind smile appears on her phone screen, Eunbi can’t help but let out a pathetic sob. Her hair, my favorite long hair, it was all gone. She is also reminded of the empty apartment she accidentally went home to a few hours ago, and while it had only been a day, how she missed her Jiminie already.
It was selfish of her (she knew, she knew) … but Jimin going to the dorms meant that she couldn’t keep Jimin to herself, and she hated it. Moreover, with the muddled situation that she was in now, she and Jimin couldn’t casually meet up anymore. Jimin was a ‘boy’, and she wasn’t just a boy. Jimin was a boy that was bound to become an idol. If people uncovered photos of herself and Jimin (dressed as a boy) together, oh how the world would hate on them. They couldn’t risk it.
“I just miss you, Jiminie,” Eunbi says quietly, and Jimin nods understandingly. Eunbi sees the sorrow and loneliness in the elder’s eyes.
“I miss you too, bun.” Jimin says as she puts her thumb to the screen as if to wipe Eunbi’s tears. “I’m going to miss being with you. I’ll miss playing with your long hair…” Eunbi nods at her girlfriend’s honey sweet words. “It smells like socks and sweat here, I kid you not.” Jimin fake gags, and Eunbi cracks a smile. “But I’m going to work with these guys…they don’t really know me yet, but they seem like really good people…. and I’m going to become an idol. I’m going to work really hard, because I know that you are training your butt off too.” Eunbi nods again, another tear slipping down her face.
“You got to take care of yourself, okay?” Jimin says kindly. “I know you like practicing, but don’t overdo it.”
“Same goes for you too, you dance-baka.”
“Did you just call me a baka? …You weeb”
“Says you, who got me into reading Haikyuu.”
“Tsukikage is the superior ship”
“Yeah, yeah… whatever. You’ll never change my mind about Kagesuga though”
“Yo… you didn’t tell me that he was a dancing miracle,” Hoseok says excitedly after the boy had quickly dismissed himself from the table. “Did you see his form? He’s crazy good.”
Hoseok looks across the room and watches as the other boys nod in agreement. Namjoon, sitting across from him smiles. “Hell, Bang PD-nim didn’t give me any explanation about him. Only that he was casted for his dancing and that he’d been training at BH for 2 years now.”
“You know what, guys.” Hoseok says simply. “He needs to be on stage with us.”
And Hoseok sees Seokjin agreeing beside him. The others still look unsure.
“He’s now officially my favorite kid” Seokjin says with a laugh. “He helped me with dinner, and he even reorganized the pantry.” They laugh at Seokjin’s lament.
“I think I’m gonna check on him,” Hoseok says, and none of the others object.
Hoseok had been outside for too long. So naturally, Seokjin makes the second oldest check on Jimin and Hoseok. When he opens the front door, he is blocked by Hoseok who is standing right in front of the doorframe. Peeking over Hoseok’s shoulders, Yoongi sees Jimin standing a few feet ahead of them with a phone to his left ear, completely immersed in his own world.
He wanted to ask Hoseok why he’d been standing there for so long, but instead, quietly stands beside him to watch the younger boy.
"I love you too" Jimin says sweetly. Love?? Who had he been talking to? Yoongi notices how softly the boy spoke to the person on the other line. Gentler. Nicer. Fonder. The moment he ends the call, he sees the shades of deep blue sorrow splattered upon the boy’s face. Like this morning, the boy’s lips were trembling again, and Yoongi watched quietly as Jimin covered his face with his small hands, letting out a soft, tired sigh.
“Let’s let him be, Seok-ah,” Yoongi whispers quietly after giving the younger a light tap on the shoulder. “He’s had a long first day.”
“… I just want to give him a big hug” Hoseok pouts, and Yoongi smiles at the younger’s kind heart.
“There will come a time.” Yoongi says reassuringly, and the two quietly walk back into the dorms.
Day 1 with Park Jimin in the dorms, and Taehyung couldn’t help but worry about the future dynamic of the team. What was going to happen tomorrow? Were they going to have a fight? Will Yoongi hyung be angrier than normal? Will he yell? Will I get kicked out? Will he be the "better" 95 liner? More, and more, and more.
‘Jimin’s officially my favorite little brother,’ Seokjin had announced today at dinner. But what about me? He knew he was being selfish, but he couldn’t help it. Bighit and the guys were the only people he knew in Seoul. His only family in the big, scary city. He didn’t want to lose any of it.
I liked the way it was before… He wanted to tell one of his hyungs. But he didn’t... because that would worry them, and it would ruin all the effort they were putting in to be the kindest they could to the newcomer. He didn’t want to make things worse, but he didn’t like how it was now.
He silently looks up at the ceiling as he listens to the others breathe in their cramped bedroom with the two king-sized mattresses pushed together. On his left lay Jungkook, and on his right lay Namjoon. Both sleeping soundly. He lets out a shaky sigh.
“Taehyung?” He hears a voice whisper unexpectedly. An unfamiliar voice.
He ignores it, and closes his eyes, immediately falling into a deep sleep.
Chapter 5: nervous
Sejin walks back and forth across the floor as he nervously waits for Bang’s phone call to end. The normally rather bubbly music producer had a hard expression on his face as he talked to the person on the line.
“We cannot disclose any personal information unless they are under police investigation, or they give consent. Even so, we have the decision to or to not disclose this information” Bang says with an icy tone. “Please do not call us again if it’s about one of our staff or trainees.” He cuts the call short before the other can respond, and he lets out a sigh as his eyes meet Sejin’s.
“Was it the same guy?” Sejin asks, and Bang nods. “Shouldn’t we tell her before anything happens?” Bang shakes his head.
“She’s going to blame herself and be in even more danger” He says with a frown. “And this time, he didn’t say he was looking for a trainee. He asked for a specific name. Specifically, for a Seo Jimin.” Sejin gulps. It was a nightmare coming to life. He watches Bang nervously put his palm to his forehead.
“Maybe, we do need to let her go, Bang” Sejin says softly. The words leave a sour aftertaste in his own mouth.
“I can’t let this one go,” Bang stares squarely into Sejin’s eyes with his eyes full of emotion. Sejin balls his fists in his pockets, keeping quiet, not knowing what to say.
It’s 4 AM, and Jimin is sitting in the kitchen with a mug of coffee in her hand. She had secretly taken a shower and prepared (i.e. tightly wrapping her chest with a band, shaving, styling her hair, etc.) for the day in peace. To be honest, she hadn’t slept well. The snoring, she could tolerate; she wasn’t sensitive to stuff like that. It was simply the anxiety of the day, the call with Eunbi, and the uncomfortable air that lingered in the dorms that all added up, keeping her in such restless state. She had been thrown into the deep end of the pool, into unknown waters, and into a crowd of unfamiliar people. Moreover, she had to hide who she was from them and lie. It was a lot to take in.
I should think about the things I shouldn’t do and what I should start doing. She plucks a post-it from the kitchen counter and starts to make a list.
- Don’t talk about the past or about yourself too much. Don’t make it an open topic. Be private. You don’t like talking about it anyway.
- Keep honorifics for now. Show respect. The normal stuff.
- Don’t start any teasing or joking. It could lead to physical contact --> best to avoid
- Don’t touch others. Don’t hug others. Don’t do it unless necessary. Avoid physical contact. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid
- Don’t cry. Your sobbing is way too high pitch. You sound like a dying lamb… whatever that would sounds like.
- Don’t cover your mouth when you laugh, they might take it as too “feminine”
- Maybe put on some weight and muscle
- Eat like a man(?) what even is that lmao. Just eat like you normally do.
- Don’t sing high notes. Keep your voice low and deep. You can’t really sing anyway.
Jimin sighs at her list. She knew. She knew if Eunbi was here to see it, she would’ve torn it apart at once and tell her, reassure her with her sweet words that Jimin was more than how she portrayed herself, and that she deserved more (when Jimin knew they were her kind, white lies).
But Eunbi wasn’t there with her anymore. So, she folds the red square sheet, shoving it into her sweat’s pockets, and stands up to put the now empty coffee mug in the dishwasher.
- Never wear skinny jeans… They’ll notice >_<
And she really hoped none of them had noticed yesterday.
Yoongi was a light sleeper, and when he heard the morning noise of the new boy getting ready for the morning, he was surprised. This early in the morning?? Yoongi was starting to get flashbacks of shy little Jungkook when he first came in.
Cookie points for being stoic, I guess. Yoongi shrugs. 4 AM was early. Way to early.
He goes back to sleep.
At about seven, an alarm clock rang. Slowly, the dorm came to life (just the way it did the day before), and at about the same time, Jimin puffed proudly at her table setting. 7 white china dishes with a good nutritious breakfast of toast, steamed broccoli, omelet (with mushrooms and ham), and some fruit. Hmph, when was the last time she cooked for this many people? She thinks to herself. Probably the day the last batch of girls left Bighit and transferred to other companies.
“Holy crap,” She hears Seokjin mutter under his breath as he freezes, staring at the already warm and steaming breakfast. “Thanks, Jimin.” She watches as the older boy’s eyes form crescents. “It smells delicious.”
With the others still getting ready, they start picking at their meal.
“When did you learn how to cook? My omelets are always dry… OMG, this is really yummy. Did you really make these??—wait... When did you wake up to make all of this?” Seokjin throws a flurry of questions at Jimin, and she giggles. He was almost childish, in a sense, and she found it endearing.
“Just a few minutes ago, Seokjin-ssi” She lies with a smile (not wanting to make the older feel bad). “And thanks, I was worried it wouldn’t fit your taste.”
Today, the rappers and the vocals split to do their classes. Jimin, who was sure as hell that he was NOT a rapper, went to the vocals class. After their rap coach had dismissed them, Hoseok, Namjoon, and Yoongi decided to check on the others. When they walked in, they were caught by surprise. The teacher was having a one on one with Jimin. The young boy stood nervously beside the plastic keyboard where the teacher had his fingers sprawled over the keys.
“Something just seems off…” The instructor says with a frown. The rappers look at each other confused, then to the other boys sitting in the corner. The maknae shrugs with a nervous smile. They sit down beside them.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Namjoon whispers.
“Mr. Ko doesn’t think Jimin’s trying hard enough, so he’s kinda mad at him.” Seokjin says frankly.
“How long have they been at it?”
“A good 30 minutes.”
Hoseok looks back at Jimin, again. He looked unconfident and scared; he was completely different from who he was yesterday in the studio. And Hoseok frowned. Could we have jumped to conclusions too fast…?
“Louder!” The Mr. Ko shouts. “Bolder!”
Jimin’s tone and pitch don’t seem to change. Hoseok hears a sigh from Taehyung.
“Are you even trying?”
The teacher yells, and they see fear and embarrassment written all over the boy’s face.
“I-I’m sorry” He stutters and looks down at the floor.
“…One more go. Then we’re done for today.”
Since vocal lessons and dance lessons were taught by different teacher for boys and girls, thankfully, the instructor didn’t recognize her. She was also able to keep the “no high note policy” with herself. But Jimin frowned. When was the last time I’d made my instructors so mad?? She hated the feeling, the guilt gnawing at her chest. She also hated her inability to pull off the low notes. She needed to do better.
Now even the rappers are watching… She thinks to herself anxiously. They’re probably going to be as disappointed as the others… They’re going to hate it. She bites her lip for the hundredth time in the vocal-training room. She tastes the iron on her tongue and internally sighs as the instructor starts again, putting his fingers on the keyboard.
“Why aren’t you starting?” The instructor asks gruffly when she misses her cue.
She takes in a deep breath and widens her stance to sing again.
Jimin was being quite honest when he said he couldn’t sing, because Jungkook and the others found that Jimin sure as hell could not take a note. After their brief warmup, Jimin was cornered by the teacher for his lack of skill. Criticism is necessary for improvement. It was Jungkook's moto, and in his mind, the ‘stricter, the better.’ But with Jimin in the studio today, Jungkook almost felt bad for him. He just couldn’t do it. He didn't have the proper training. His voice was airy and lacked strength.
“How long did you say you trained here before joining the debut-er trainees?” Mr. Ko asks with his usual gruff tone.
“2 years sir…” Jimin says quietly under his breath.
“Tuh-two years… sir”
“Two beautiful years wasted. What have you been doing?”
Jungkook sees Seokjin physically flinch at the words. The three then look uncomfortably at each other as they watch the boy slowly getting torn apart. Jungkook couldn’t stand it. Despite the tension, Jimin doesn’t back away.
“May I go again, sir?” Jimin asks.
Jungkook knew that Jimin wasn’t a singer. He couldn’t sing. Not yet.
But he was persistent. He would improve.
Chapter 6: sing
When they all got home from vocal coaching, Hoseok asked Jimin to go with him to buy groceries. Assuming that his offer was more of an order than a choice, Jimin peeled herself off the couch and agreed to accompany to the older.
"Cool. Go grab a jacket, and we'll be off". Hoseok says, and Jimin runs to her corner of the closet.
They walk silently with empty canvas bags in their hands. Jimin can’t help but wonder why Hoseok had asked her to come along with him. There must be a reason why… Was he disappointed with me? Is he going to yell at me?? Or worse… Was he going to leave me??
The thought crawled into Jimin’s head and lingered like an evil storm cloud.
I guess they don’t want me anymore… I mean, they never wanted me in the first place, but now they have a reason to hate me more. Now they see the empty gaps that they need to fill in because of me. The burden I am. They’re going to leave me.
I’m always a dead weight, aren’t I? Always pulling people down. Always using others, sinking them, to take a glimpse of the light.
Do I deserve to be here?
Heck, do I deserve to want to stand on stage?
No… No, you don’t Park Jimin. No, you don’t.
She hears a faraway voice calling her name.
Hoseok hums quietly beside the younger as they trudge through the old Seoul sky to a nearby supermarket. That is… until he sees the younger boy’s eyes.
It was like he was in some trance, in his own headspace, and he looked terrified and disgusted and angry all at the same time. The boy does his habit of biting his lower lip, and this time, he bites down so hard that Hoseok sees the red staining the corners of his plump lips.
“Jimin?” Hoseok asks worriedly as the boy suddenly stops in his footsteps.
“I’m sorry” He breathes, his eyes still in a place far away. “I’m sorry.”
Not knowing what to do, Hoseok firmly holds the boy’s fragile shoulders, and guides him to a corner of the sidewalk.
“Breathe, Jimin.” Hoseok says softly. “Breathe.” The boy frantically bobs his head back and forth and quietly musters out words to say.
“I… I think I’m going to go back to the studio for some more practice.”
“Oh no you aren’t, Jimin” Hoseok says firmly. “You need to rest.”
Hoseok watched as the boy wipes the blood on his sleeve.
“Please… Hoseok hyung”
“Hyung” she had called him. The unfamiliar word fell from her lips. And… she’d broken rule number 2. Formalities were broken. Jimin didn’t expect it to work, but here she was. She and Hoseok were back in the dance studio. If she came here, she could practice her singing. If she came here and practiced… would they reconsider not kicking her out? She was barely comfortable in the dorms, but she couldn’t be kicked out. She had to stay.
“You know… I feel like you’re straining your voice… not to hit higher notes, but for the lower notes.” The older says, simply stating his observations to Jimin singing some scales.
“R-really?” She asks nervously. The older dancer nods.
“Hey… why don’t you just try singing something that you like singing”
She feels herself hesitating.
“I can’t sing,” She says bluntly.
“Oh, but you can, Jimin” She gives him a worried look. Why is he being so nice to me? He was going to send me away, wasn’t he? He didn’t want me to be with the others. But Hoseok continues to smile at her with his pearly grin. “C’mon! I know you can do it.”
A melody starts to play in the back of her mind. A song that Eunbi used to hum when they were doing the dished together, the one which Eunbi sang to her when Jimin braided her hair.
Jimin takes in a deep breath.
Wherever I go, my small rain cloud floats above me.
I stand on my tip-toes, trying to catch it
But I’m too short, and it’s always above my fingertips
The rain wells up at my ankles
The tears I held back well up in my eyes
You are the umbrella above my head
On nights when the cold rain falls on my shoulders
You have become a habit next to me
So, I can’t live without you
I’m alone in the rain
The younger boy’s clear voice takes Hoseok’s breath away. High, it was, but pleasant and soft. His emotion penetrated through the walls, and his voice resonated through the practice room. Hoseok stares at the younger boy for a while, feeling the goosebumps prickling at his skin. Why was he hiding that voice? What was going on in this boy’s mind when he decided to conceal the voice of an angel? Jimin’s eyes wander to a distant somewhere. Beyond the practice room walls. Beyond the moonshine that shone through the windows. He bites his lip.
“You were hiding this??” Hoseok asks a little too harshly. The boy flinches away from the older and nods his head. “You’re… you sing well! What is there to be ashamed of?” He says, a little softer than before.
“I don’t like my voice” The boy simply says. Was that really what he thought? Hoseok couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Your voice is beautiful.” The boy looks down at his hands shyly, but Hoseok sees a teensy smile creeping up on the younger’s face. “And… you’re still growing. Your voice will mature and deepen.”
Hoseok takes the boy’s hand. “Let’s go home, Jimin-ah”
“Yeah, our home. The dorms.”
“Oh my god… I totally forgot that we were out to buy groceries.” Hoseok mutters as they were walking back ‘home.’ Jimin’s heart was still pounding. He won’t send me away after all! A surge of momentary relief filled her heart.
Hoseok curses at the exploding amount of texts that come in once he turns his phone on.
“Are they mad?” Jimin asks worriedly. Did they not want me back??
“No, they aren’t. Seokjin hyung’s just worried.” Hoseok presses Seokjin’s contact icon. “Hold on, I’m going to call him.”
Chapter 7: school?
After waking up early again to get ready and make breakfast, Jimin sets herself down on the living room couch. She sees that she had 6 missed calls from Bang and dials to call back. In attempt not to wake up the others, she steps out of the front door.
“…Hello?” She asks as soon as she hears the phone click on from the other side.
“Hey Jimin, thanks for calling back. I just wanted to tell you that tomorrow’s your first day at your new school.” Bang says with a cheerful tone. Jimin’s heart drops. “Sejin is going to drop off your uniform and textbooks today”
Shoot, right. The plan was that she was going to transfer to a new school on Monday. Without telling any of her school friends, she had quit the all-girls schools she had been attending to enroll into an all-boys school that Taehyung was studying at.
“I enrolled you as <<Park Jimin>> by the way,” He says, and her chest squeezes for a moment.
“Thank you very much. I appreciate it” Jimin manages to say. Bang must have sensed the anxiety from her voice.
“It’s going to be all right, Jimin. We’re going to help you.” His voice is soft and calming. “How have your first few days been?” He asks after a slight pause.
Jimin thinks about it for a few seconds. The first 2 days… weren’t too bad. Besides the fact that she nearly panicked in front of Hoseok and got yelled at by the vocal teacher… that was. No one seemed to suspect her being a girl, and no one was openly hating on her too much… yet. Everything was still fine.
“I’ve been trying to keep up.” She says, keeping her response ambiguous as possible. “It’s been difficult keeping up with the stamina, but besides that, they are all really welcoming.” At this, Jimin hears a content grunt from the older man.
The phone line ends.
Overhearing Jimin’s call with Bang PD-nim, Taehyung decided to offer the boy a hand. He himself had to adjust with Jimin being here after all… Helping him lug up a few boxes to the apartment wouldn’t be a problem.
“Thanks,” was all he got out of the older boy, but Jimin’s expression was pleasant... He’d come home late at night with Hoseok and Taehyung assumed that he must’ve had the time to destress. Hoseok was always a comforting sort of guy. He was slightly relieved that Hoseok was able to help him; he felt slightly bad for Jimin after all that scolding during vocal practice.
“Did PD-nim say that Sejinie hyung was dropping the boxes off?” He asks Jimin after a few minutes of waiting on the curb. Jimin nods.
“Yeah. He said he’ll be here in 5.”
Soon enough, Sejin pulls up in his black minivan with a couple of boxes stacked in the front seat.
“Sorry for the wait... I just had to reconfirm stuff with the PD about your school,” he says as he pokes his head through the car window. Sejin gives them both a smile. “Good morning, Tae, Jimin.”
Taehyung gives a casual bow.
“No worries… thanks for delivering. I could’ve just gone to the school myself though…” Jimin says worriedly, and Sejin shakes his head.
“Bang is your legal guardian for now, so one of us would’ve had to go anyways. Don’t worry about it.” Taehyung watches Jimin’s cheeks flare bright red in embarrassment as the older man ruffled the boy’s soft hair with his big warm hands. “So, how’s sleeping in the big room, Jiminie?” Sejin laughs. Taehyung is surprised to see Jimin pouting at the man in response.
“Terrible. But it’s warm” Jimin jokes. Taehyung steps slightly back as he watches the boy and the manager converse. It was strange to see Jimin so open and smiley to another. The manager simply chuckles.
“Alright,” Sejin says with a wide grin. He reaches to the back seat and takes clothes from a hanger. “Here’s your uniform, and here’s your schoolbag and notebooks. I suppose Tae can lend you his textbooks for now” He suggest. Taehyung nods. Namjoon had told them that they were even going to be in the same class a day earlier. Taehyung sees Jimin’s appreciative smile and gives him a shy look of approval
“Tae… Keep him safe, yeah?” Sejin says with a worried glance.
“I’m okay. You don’t need to baby me” Jimin protests, but the man shakes his head and looks at Taehyung again.
“…Yes, hyung… I will.”
Why was Sejin being so protective of him?
Why don’t you give Jimin a tour around school today?” Seokjin offers the younger 95 liner as soon as he and Jimin emptied the boxes of school supplies and hung the uniform in the closet.
Scrubbing the egg off the pans, hands stuck in gross rubber kitchen gloves, Jimin listens into the conversation.
“Uhh…” Taehyung starts with hesitation.
“Oh, c’mon Taehyungie. Let him meet your friends. Let him see your manga club.” The older pushes, and Jimin sees the discomfort cloud the younger boy’s face.
“He… really doesn’t have to… Seokjin-ssi” Jimin says in his defense, but Seokjin shakes his head.
“Come on, Taetae. I’ll make you guys lunches to eat on the train. It’ll be like a little adventure, wouldn’t it?” The older pushes again. The boy doesn’t fight back, and this time, gives a silent nod. His lips are pursed. His brows are tense. Jimin feels guilt rising through his throat along with fear and anxiety. Meeting more people... as a boy? She didn't feel ready, and the breakfast churned in her stomach.
"Don't be shy! You’re gonna be ok" Hoseok says, clapping the girl's fragile shoulders encouragingly as he walks into the conversation. "You and Tae can have some bonding time.”
Jimin internally sighs. Did Taehyung want the bonding time, though?
From his place in bed, Jungkook blankly stares at Jimin who was changing discreetly in the corner of the room. He carefully slips his school shirt and pants over his boxers and tank top. His arms had more muscle than Jungkook had initially expected. His skin looked pale and soft. He’s so pretty. Jungkook sighs to himself, but immediately shakes the thought from his head. Shit, what were you even thinking Jeon Jungkook. In embarrassment, he covers himself with more blankets. Jungkook hears the boy squeak in surprise.
“Sh-shoot you scared me, Jungkook.” Jimin mutters lowly. “Phew… never mind, he must be really tired.”
Jungkook doesn’t respond to Jimin. He keeps the blankets covered over himself until he hears Jimin shuffling out of the bedroom. Oof… that was close. It’s Jimin’s third day. He can’t think that I’m a creep. Not yet.
Chapter 8: school
Jimin’s heart swells when Seokjin gives her and Taehyung each a neatly wrapped bento box to eat on their way to school. When was the last time someone had ever prepared lunch for her like that? It had been quite a while. Months? Maybe years.
"You guys can eat it on the way there" Seokjin suggests with a toothy grin, and he leads the two 95ers outside.
"Oohh, Jimin looking fancy with his new uniform!" Hoseok says as he adjusts the youngers necktie with a smile. The corner of his eyes crinkle, and Jimin is surprised by how close his face is to her own. She looks down.
"Thanks, Hoseok hyung... " She says softly. The unfamiliar word leaves her mouth again, and she watches the older nod happily as he pats her on the head. She can feel his bright smile radiating from above.
"Yup. We’ll see you guys back before 6, yeah?" And before Jimin can give any form of answer, Taehyung is pulling her out of the apartment room, dragging her down the stairs.
“Hurry up, we’re gonna miss the train.”
First day as 'schoolboy Park Jimin.'
On the train ride, Jimin gratefully opens his bento box. His face lights up at once.
"Triangular kimbap" He says, breath taken, as he carefully takes one out of the container. It was Seokjin's specialty. But was it that special?? Back at home, Taehyung’s grandma would always pack him some for school. Still, the older boy's eyes twinkled as he took his first bite.
He almost felt a smile creeping up on his own face, but quickly suppresses it.
Without opening his own lunch box, he faces away from the older and closes his eyes.
I’m only here because Seokjin hyung asked me to. Only because I promised Sejin hyung. Only because Hoseok hyung would smile happily about it.
"Talk about Seokjin hyung and Hoseok’s communication skills" Yoongi mutters under his breath the moment he and Namjoon reach their shared studio. He can already sense Namjoon's cheeks dimpling beside him.
“You want to try to accept Jimin, hm?” Namjoon says knowingly. Without even giving a response, he hears the younger boy let out a chuckle. Namjoon knew Yoongi well.
Yoongi was convinced that all of this was a marketing strategy: taking in talented, new blood to make a solid face of the group; to gather the attention; to appeal to girls who liked pretty faces. It bothered Yoongi. But it was the sad truth. As performers, what the young public saw most appealing were visuals and performance, not the quality of music. But even if Jimin was part of some marketing strategy. Yoongi couldn’t help but feel curious about how the younger would develop on stage.
"You see his potential too, don’t you?" Yoongi asks, looking up from his desktop. “Especially after that recording Hoseok sent us from last night.” Namjoon nods in agreement.
“I can’t wait to take samples with his voice.”
“Huh… I also can’t wait to give Hoseok a uppercut, back-fist jab in the face. Jin hyung said that Jimin opened up and called Hoseok a ‘hyung.”
Jimin shudders the moment she sees her new school. 'Academy for boys' it says in deep dark letters. She feels her heart sink. How will I manage keeping all of this a secret?
Taehyung’s school, Korea Arts High School, was a prestigious all-boys visual and performing arts high school. The school was also known for its famous and bedazzled alumni. The school mission statement read, “We grow talent.” It was one thing they promised.
And that was as far as to what Jimin could find on the internet. Even with that background knowledge she had prepped herself with, the school was intimidating. With a frown, Taehyung motioned Jimin to hurry and follow along. She followed his long strides, almost having to fast walk, and scurried down the school halls as he showed her the computer room, the chem lab, the broadcasting room…. It was a blur.
“There’s still a lot of people roaming around school even on the weekends, huh” Jimin comments as a group of boys in baseball gear walk past them. Taehyung nods.
“It’s mostly the sports clubs, but the club I’m in, manga club, also has meeting occasionally on Sundays… since we don’t really have time to meet on the weekdays.” Jimin feels a surge of discomfort. “So, I guess you’re gonna see my clubmates?” Taehyung shrugs. Jimin presses her lips together tightly and nods. “Cool, I guess…. They’re Pledis trainees. They’re pretty chill.”
The simple company name sends shivers trickling down her spine. She tries to not frown.
“…Thanks… That’d be great,” Jimin cracks a smile. “Uh… but first, I think I want to go to the washroom.”
After guiding the older 95er to the bathroom, Taehyung sighs. He leans against the lockers that lined the walls, feeling as if he was freed from suffocating.
“I can’t hate him…” Taehyung mutters under his breath. He couldn’t. The boy smiled at Seokjin’s cooking. He helped make breakfast. He was mindful. He was kind. “Why can’t I just talk to him like a normal guy??” Taehyung ruffles his bangs. He knew deep down that it was jealousy and anger and fear, but he wanted to turn from such ugly emotions. Shake it out of your head, Kim Taehyung. Shake it out.
He leans against the locker again when he hears a familiar chatter and footsteps.
“Huh… Is that Tae?” He hears a deep voice say with a chuckle.
“Didn’t he say he had lessons?” Another says, tone softening.
“Cheolie! Hanie!!” He says with his signature grin. Oh, how he needed to talk to them.
Jimin leans over the edges of the sink to splash water on her warm face. Meeting Taehyung’s friends…
Seokjin had mentioned that they were “real sweethearts,” But they scared her. She hadn’t even met them yet.
Pledis was one of the biggest entertainment companies in Korea. The Big 3 were intimidating, but Pledis was downright scary. They were a talent powerhouse. Not like any other company isn’t. But Pledis was special.
“Wha-…. What if…” She starts to herself but shakes her head. No… it won’t happen, get the thought out of your head, Park Jimin. She splashes more icy water onto her pale face.
She hears laughter outside. Taehyung’s deep, rich voice curls around and dances in the air as he converses with the others. It must be them. It must be his friends. She stares at her own reflection blankly, not noticing the figure standing silently beside her.
“Uhhhh… you good?” She hears an unfamiliar voice ask from behind. Whipping her head around, she sees…
No. It was stranger, who happened to look like him. Her heart still pounded. She was in the men’s washroom after all. She thought the rooms were empty… when did he…??
“G-ghost…!” She gasps and bursts out of the door.
She runs out to the hallways and looks for the only familiar face. Instinctively, she grabs for his arms, catching him by surprise. She finds herself muffling her face into the other’s shoulder, like a hug.
Taehyung’s voice wavers. She feels the boy’s hands prying her away, and she is brought back into present time.
“Oh-Ohmygod. Sorry… There was someone in the bathroom and I… I was kind of startled.” She tries to avoid any form of eye contact as she embarrassingly confesses.
She expects anger. Sheer anger. She braces for it…
But all she hears is crisp, wonderful laughter.
Taehyung wants to tell them about how he felt, but falters. He feels like he shouldn’t.
Seungcheol and Jeonghan’s dorms consisted of even more boys. Even more competition. Even more jealousy. He felt like a wimp if he complained to them about a 7th member.
“I-I’m just giving Jimin a tour around the school.” He says simply. “Seokjin hyung said it was better if I did…” He quietly adds. The two of them nod.
“That’s new kid you were texting us about, right?” Jeonghan asks with a cocked brow. “You keeping up?”
“Is he mean to you?” Seungcheol asks concerned.
Taehyung shakes his head.
“Are you scared that he’s going to take your place?” Jeonghan asks lowly.
Eyes wide, Taehyung nods. He hears a groan from Seungcheol. Both walk towards him with their arms wide open.
“C’mere.” Seungcheol says while almost suffocating Taehyung in his tight embrace. “He’s not gonna replace you. And you’re not gonna be overshined. He’s him. You’re Taehyung. You guys are different.”
“Well… we don’t know about that…” Taehyung pouts.
“We do… Taetae… We do…” Jeonghan says softly.
“Or… you just gotta believe in yourself. That’s how all of us in Seventeen project manage to not rip each other’s throats out.” Seungcheol jokes, in attempt to lighten the mood. “We accept that we’re different, and we’re all walking in our different speeds towards the same goal. It’s hard, we know.” Seungcheol lovingly ruffles his best friend’s hair. With his words, came heavy, deep reassurance. Taehyung’s shoulders feel significantly lighter than before.
“That’s right, Taehyung-ah.” Jeonghan nods. “Stay bold. It’s the best way to keep going.”
She had unconsciously closed her eyes to brace for a punch, or an angry yell. But instead, in her darkness, she hears laughter. Happy, joyful laughter.
She opens her eyes and sees Taehyung, along two other boys, laughing, smiling.
“Don’t be nervous. We don’t bite.” One boy with big round eyes says reassuringly as he wraps an arm around Taehyung with a friendly grin. “I’m Seungcheol, and he’s Jeonghan. We’re Taehyung’s friends.” She nods quietly, still phased.
“Yah, Kim Taehyung. At least introduce him to us.” Jeonghan, with th long, blonde ponytail whines as he nudges Taehyung in the shoulders.
“Park Jimin. My new teammate. He’s a dancer” Taehyung says casually. And the two others nod.
“Uh-h-hi…. Nice to meet you guys.” She squeaks.
She feels herself evidently shaking. She looks at the ground.
Shit. Why am I like this?
“Heh-hey it’s okay, dude,” Seungcheol says warmly. She bites her lip, and the shaking goes away. They’re being nice to me. I need to give back. Jimin clears her throat, and crinkles her eyes, trying to make a genuine smile. Seungcheol nods understandingly, then pauses. “Wanna go see our club room?”
Chapter 9: comfort
“Didn’t think you’d be home this early, hyung.” Is the first thing Yoongi hears when he gets back to the dorms.
“Where’s Seokjin hyung?” He asks to Hoseok in his sweats, sprawled on the living room couch. “And good to see you too, Jung Hoseok…” Sheesh. At least greet me in, would you?
“Gee… guess who’s in a bad mood today.” Hoseok says with a goofy smile. “Seokjin hyung is at vocal training… Was everything ok? Where’s Namjoon?”
“The software froze, and I lost my data for today. Don’t have the motivation to write everything out.” He was too angry and tired. He’d worked 7 hours on. It was frustrating. “Joon’s still down there. He said he might just sleep there today.” Hoseok hums.
“Gosh… Bighit really needs some new computers don’t they…” Yoongi nods, angrily. Just thinking about the big ass Macintoshes made Yoongi’s blood boil. He hated them fat computers.
“I should probably get a side-job again…” Yoongi grumbles. “We barely even have enough expenses for food…The company won’t be able to get us computers.”
The younger boy’s eyes widen.
“Hyung—you’re not going to do building again, are you?” His eyes are full of worry. “No construction, right?” Yoongi tries to shake the boy’s concern away with a casual eyeroll.
“It was just one accident, Hoseok. I’m gonna be fine.” Although mentioning it, he feels his shoulder burn a little bit.
“I know it’s still not better. Shit, that was how many months ago?” Five and a half.
“I swear. I’m fine.” Hoseok frowns.
“…At least tell Jin hyung before you start anything, will you…?”
“I will. I will.”
“Come here, hyung” Hoseok motions to an empty corner on the couch.
“Ew, no.” Yoongi says, faking disgust.
“C’mon, hyung. I think you need a hug.”
Yoongi went home, and now Namjoon was alone in the studio. He hears his heartbeat ringing in his ears. Silence was both Namjoon’s partner and enemy in songwriting. Today, it was gravitated towards being a little shit. He wasn’t in his flow.
Namjoon leans back in his desk chair, closing his eyes, only to hear Bang PD-nim yelling at someone in the other room.
The walls are thin at Bighit.
“I am telling you!! The person you are looking for, Seo Jimin, was never on our roster!!” Namjoon hears the man yell furiously. It felt alien to hear the PD so angry when he always kept a positive aura around him. Bang slams the phone down. It’s unsettling.
The name stuck.
Then, Namjoon hears his door click behind him.
“Something must have really triggered PD-nim, huh.” He hears a voice say.
“Mm…I’ve only heard him yelling like that to that one abusive manager we had for like a month.” Namjoon frowns. But that time, Bang was yelling at the manager to protect them. Could he be protecting someone now as well? “Speaking of, what brings you here, hyung?”
The older boy smiles. “Oh, just wanted to spend time with you after my vocal lessons.” He massages Namjoon’s tense shoulders, making Namjoon yelp in pain. “Yoongi’s tense, but you’re worse, grandpa shoulders,” He jokes, letting out one of his crisp laughs. Namjoon can feel his own cheeks dimpling. It’s nice, when the silence is broken by Jin hyung…
“I brought some dinner, Joonie.” Seokjin smiles as he takes out a couple of containers full of food from his bag. “Eat and fuel your brain for all the magic that you do.” Namjoon feels Seokjin’s warmth grows in his chest. Hyung just notices everything doesn’t he… Namjoon thinks to himself.
“I’m glad we’re on the same debuting team, Seokjin hyung.” Namjoon says before the older is about to leave the room. He sees how the older is evidently blushing, ears bright red, and doesn’t know how to respond. But Seokjin seems happy about what he said.
“M-me too, Namjoon-ah.” He stutters.
I need to tell them how I feel. I don’t want to regret not telling people things after they’ve left. I don’t think I’ll be able to handle another person leaving. Not Jimin. Not Hoseok. Anyone.
After spending a few hours showing Jimin around the school and letting him converse with his friends, it was time to go home.
“Thanks for showing me around, Taehyung” Jimin says with a smile as they set themselves down in the crowded train.
“No prob… I had a fun time myself.” Taehyung grins back. It was certainly a day of change for his and Jimin’s relationship. A positive one at that. “Can we be more casual?” He adds with his mustered courage. He is welcomed with a soft smile.
“Sure… is Tae okay with you?” Jimin asks. The younger 95 liner nods his head.
“Sounds good.” Taehyung says with a cheesy thumbs up. “And I guess I’ll call you Chim”
“Yup. Jimin, Jim, Chim… cute, right?”
The older boy lets out a crisp laugh. “You’re funny” Is all he says, but instead of being offended or annoyed, Taehyung feels a new kind of warmth bubbling in his chest. It was pleasant.
Chapter 10: Forward
The 95-liners came home, walking slightly closer to each other, each with a smile on their face.
Hoseok decides to take Jimin along with him on his regular jogging session.
“Let’s go cut some carbs,” He says enthusiastically to the younger, and he feels proud when the boy happily complies and follows along.
“Let me grab my jacket.” He says with a grin, and Hoseok nods.
“Oh… just keep quiet. Yoongi hyung’s still asleep.”
Taehyung and Jimin came home by 5, but by 5:30, they were out to go and jog. It seemed that the two had gotten close. Jimin seemed comfortable around the older.
Not having anything else to do, Taehyung walks into the bedroom. Yoongi was sleeping soundly, curled up in a ball. He sees the older fidget, groaning. This hyung is even stressed in his sleep… Taehyung thinks to himself.
Before he knows it, he finds himself crawling under the same bedsheets.
You smell like Daegu. It was Taehyung’s excuse to cling to Yoongi. It didn’t even make sense, he knew it. Yoongi smelled like the Seoul air and streets. The musty cigarette smoke. The diluted coffee that he drank every morning. But Yoongi was the closest thing to home… and Yoongi, the marshmallow at heart (everyone knew it), let him.
He clung to the older boy’s broad shoulders and felt the constant rise and fall of his breath. Then, he closed his eyes and thought of Jimin.
Jimin reminded Taehyung of old school friends back in Daegu. His thick Busan dialect reminded Taehyung of the family trips he and his family took for one summer break back in his elementary days. His kind, but somewhat hesitant and distant gaze reminded Taehyung of his sick grandmother.
Taehyung couldn’t even understand himself when he felt tears prickle down his face.
“Aish…--why am I so stupid.” With my feelings.
“It’s okay to take it slow, you know?” He hears Yoongi whisper in his calm, deep voice. “Hyung will… hyung will always be here for you.”
He felt a little better.
Slight jog, my foot. If this was Hoseok’s jog, it was surely Jimin’s sprint. She could feel her chest heaving for breath. The cold winter air had done its job, and her ears and nose hurt.
“C-can we slow down a bit… hyung” She manages to say. Thank god, the older immediately hears her, turning around, slowing to a halt.
“Out of shape, huh?” Hoseok says with a laugh. God… he isn’t even out of breath??
Jimin nods. “But… I… I don’t think I was ever in shape” She gasps. “Do—the other members keep up with this?”
Hoseok just smiles. Well… that’s another thing I gotta add to the list, isn’t it…? She sighs.
“It’s only a few more minutes, Jiminie.” Hoseok encourages sweetly. “I wanted to show you something. The view is really nice.”
“That’s the spirit!”
They ended up on a bench that was awkwardly placed on the top of a hill. Who knew there’d be somewhere like this in Seoul… Hoseok takes Jimin’s hand and guides her even further forward.
“See! The illuminations!!” The older exclaims as he points to the view below. They could see the buildings and sky scrapers… and the great park decorated with a million lights. “Isn’t it pretty?” Hoseok breaths and looks eagerly at the younger.
“It’s…. beautiful” Jimin agrees. It was… It was…
“Standing here, makes me feel like I’m standing in a stadium,” Hoseok says full of wonder. “…Not like I’ve stood in one though” He adds shyly.
“It does… the illuminations are kinda like light sticks, aren’t they?”
“Woah… you get what I’m saying?!” Jimin nods. “I—This is what I want to see for us.” Hoseok says, scratching his head. “I know… A lot of people don’t expect our group to succeed. Even debut. But I want to see this view with you, and Namjoon and the hyungs and Taehyungie and Jungkookie.”
Jimin stays silent, not knowing what to say. I’m being included, in someone’s dream? No one had ever said something like that to her before. Not this directly.
“… Me too.”
She managed to muster out.
Then, she felt an unknown guilt creep up in her chest, suffocating and clenching her full heart, patiently waiting for it to shatter into dust.
When Taehyung woke up from his nap, Yoongi was nowhere to be seen. Until he hears Seokjin and Yoongi’s voices echoing through the kitchen… Something seemed off.
“Hyung… It’s just a day shift. It’s not going to cause anyone trouble.”
“No, Yoongi. I can’t have it! You are not going to have a part-time job again!”
“Well, I said I’m going to do it, and so I am. Besides, you don’t have a say in what I do. I was just going to tell you before you freak out.”
“I’m not freaking out! And I can’t have you hurt!”
“Yeah sure, you’re totally not freaking out right now. And I’m not a weak ass. I did 5 part-time jobs in high school… I guess you wouldn’t know ‘cause you were born with a giant silver spoon in your mouth!!!”
Taehyung quickly breathes in at the last comment. Taehyung can imagine Seokjin’s shocked expressions. He feels his stomach turn.
Yoongi hyung’s getting a job?
Why isn’t Seokjin hyung responding?
“Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t know.” Taehyung finally hears Seokjin say, and he braces for the worst outburst… Seokjin could sometimes be immature when the youngers lashed out on him.
But instead… “I don’t know, and I might never know.” Seokjin starts calmly. “But can I fucking do anything about that? Point is, I don’t want you getting hurt, and I don’t want you to overexert yourself. I also don’t want to be fighting with you about petty things like money and food. Yoongi, leave it to hyung. I’ll find more students to tutor. We can try to cut down on the gas and water bills… Calm down and let me take care of it, yeah?” There room is still, but soon, Taehyung hears Yoongi make a little grunt. He also hears Seokjin chuckle
“Yoongi-yah, just make music and do what you love. Yeah, maybe you were alone before, but am I that useless? I am so useless that you can’t even rely on me?? What about the younger boys? Can’t you trust them??”
“Hyung, that’s not what I—”
“I know, I know. Aish, these composer kids are so tense and hard-headed sometimes,” Seokjin jokes. “I have to deal with Namjoon crying and Yoongi yelling all in one day?? Ugh… Give me a break.”
“Namjoon was cryi—? … I wasn’t yelling at you hyung!!”
“Sure, you were!! Look, yourself yelling at me now!”
Taehyung sighs to himself.
Today was just another eventful day in the Bighit dorms.
Chapter 11: firstday
Just the first day of school. Just the first day of school. Jimin chants to herself as she eats the breakfast Seokjin had graciously prepared for them.
“You look tired” Seokjin says to Jimin as he passes her the pitcher of orange juice.
“Just a little,” Jimin smiles. Which was a total lie... She was exhausted. She ached from all the running last night; even more than from the first dance practice. She brushes it off anyway.
“Today’s going to be great! December is also the month when we start our indoor swimming unit! We have P.E. today so it’s gonna be really refreshing!” Taehyung exclaims.
“Pu…—peh…—P.E?? and swimming??”
(( Eunbi, Jimin (2) ))
Yo Hwang Eunbi
Isn’t today the first day of new school for you?
Oh yeah where do you go again?
Im panicking on the toilet
I need an excuse NOT to do the swim unit
Like or even just something to excuse me from doing PE in gen
Say ur on ur period
ur a boy
Which isn’t even a lie
So that could be your excuse
Omg I forgot about that
I LOVE U
love you too and good luck <33
don’t push yourself too hard TT
… And so, Jimin left for school in her nice little uniform with a letter to excuse her from the swim unit.
During their train commute, Jimin notices the watching eyes. The whispers. The giggle from the blushing girl.
“Quite the looker… aren’t you” She says with a puff. She hadn’t really taken it into consideration, but Taehyung was quite handsome. He had a nice jaw and round eyes and a pretty nose. Perfect proportions to add to it. No wonder there were girls squealing and stealing glances.
“Huh?” He asks obliviously. Of course, the good-looking ones are never aware of the attention. Same went for Eunbi when Jimin went on dates with her… “What-chu talking about?” Taehyung asks, but Jimin shakes his head.
The train passes a railroad crossing and Jimin looks out the window, seeing the little elementary students waiting for the train to pass, waving, smiling.
“Nothing…Just wondering if we have vocal lessons again soon”
He nods. “Yup, this Thursday… ready for the wrath of Mr. Ko again?” Taehyung asks with a worried look.
“Mmm… he’s a yeller isn’t he”
“Yeah.” The younger boy fidgets. “I—also wanted to tell you that… what he said…” He trails off.
“Wha—what Mr. Ko said. About your time training being a waste… Don’t take it to heart. He said the same for me once too. He says it to all of us”
…Is he trying to encourage me?? Jimin could feel her cheeks smiling.
“I guess you are kinda cute, Kim Taehyung.”
“I said what I said.” She shrugs and smirks as the boy’s ears redden.
“Hey, you don’t look too hot. Are you okay, Unnie?” Eunbi hears from above. From the corner she was blankly sitting in, she looks up to see Yewon, looking worriedly, down into the elder’s eyes. Eunbi nods.
“I’m good. Thanks.” She looks away from the younger. Yewon seemed like a marshmallow, but she was sharp with her senses. She was quick to notice things about the other trainees. She knew something was wrong.
“I know something’s up,” Yewon says timidly, and Eunbi shakes her head.
“It’s really not a big deal…” Eunbi starts, but she sees the younger show her wide grin.
“It’s love, isn’t it?” She says smugly, kneeling in front of Eunbi.
“Love.” Yewon repeats simply. “A girl looks at her phone and smiles but looks sad at the same time? That’s definitely love.”
“I—I guess you got me there…” Eunbi laughs in disbelief.
“So, who’s the lucky man?” Yewon asks curiously. Eunbi falters. A man…
“Sh… He’s a trainee. We trained a little together at my old company.”
“Nice, nice” Yewon hums. “Are you guys doing well? How long have you been together?” Eunbi never expected herself to be answering such questions.
“We’re doing well, I guess. I guess it became official 4 years ago.” Eunbi says with a grin. Gee… why am I telling her everything? She and Jimin had grown up together. They were neighbors in Busan, and when Eunbi’s parents moved to Seoul, so did Jimin. Jimin could probably navigate Eunbi’s heart with her eyes closed… but could I do the same?? Jimin seemed so far away now.
“You guys seem so happy… but what bothers you, Unnie?”
“Nothing, Yewonie. I just miss he—him.”
Walking into a boy’s academy felt like walking into a basketball court with soccer cleats on. To sum it up, Jimin felt completely out of place. As she and Taehyung walked side by side, people came by to greet Taehyung, hugging him, giving him a little punch on the arm, teasing loudly. Everything felt new.
“Nervous?” Taehyung asks, and Jimin just nods. “It’s okay. We’re almost there.” Throwing away any source of pride, she grabs onto Taehyung’s sleeve, not letting go.
They make it through the crowd, into the administration room.
“I’m gonna drop you off here,” Taehyung says coolly. “Mr. Heechul is going to take you up to homeroom and I’ll see you there.” Jimin nods, smiling thankfully, and watches the younger go. Then, with the manila envelope Bang had given her in one hand, and the P.E. excuse note in the other, she walks over to the staff lounge. You can do this, Park Jimin. You can do this.
“…Uh are you Mr. Kim?” She asks timidly as she walks over to the desk. The man in the black suit had whitish blond hair and porcelain skin. He was pretty. He looks at her blankly for a few seconds, then smiles.
“Oh, you must be Park Jimin? New student slash trainee, correct?” He says in a bright voice. Jimin gulps. She felt strangely intimidated by his brightness.
“Uh… ye—yeah that would be me.” She stumbles over her words and quickly averts her gaze.
“Nice to meet you,” He says casually. Then, while reaching in his leather bag, scavenging for papers, he looks at her questioningly. “I don’t seem to have any prior information about you besides you’re a trainee at Bighit. Where’d you go to school before this?”
The questions… this was what she feared the most.
“I… wasn’t enrolled in school at all.” She says carefully, repeating the recited words she had practiced with Sejin.
“I see… so you were homeschooled, I guess?” She nods. “Well, there might be a lot you need to catch up to then. Do you think I could have your parent contact info?”
“My legal guardian is Bang Sihyuk PD-nim. You can contact him through the company.” She recites again. This time, it was the truth. Just, she wasn’t used to telling people about it. Mr. Kim simply nods, still with a questioning look and his lips tightly pressed together.
“Alrighty… shall we head over to class?” Mr. Kim asks, back to his smiley demeanor. “They’re a rowdy bunch, but they’re all good kids at heart. I’m sure you’ll fit in fine.” He says, encouragingly. Jimin simply nods. I don’t need to fit in. If possible, I want to avoid everyone and anyone as best as possible…
“Oh, Mr. Kim. I don’t think I will be able to do the swim unit… I’m asthmatic.”
What a terrible first impression… she thinks to herself.
Chapter 12: change
It’s been three days since Jimin became a part of Mr. Kim’s class. In Seungcheol’s eyes, Jimin seemed… fragile, elegant, and almost fairy-like. For one thing, he didn’t participate in P.E. which established the “fragile” persona. He was also a role-model-type. He paid attention during class, occasionally asking question, and respected his teachers. He also scored the highest in the class on a math quiz that he was told to take first thing he stepped foot into the classroom (increasing the class average by almost 2%... ew). Jimin also seemed indifferent to the class’ antics. During break, when some of the guys were fighting about the benefits of short skirts vs crop tops, he innocently read his book and stayed out of the conversation. When thrown inappropriate jokes, he simply smiled with a confused gaze and looked over to Taehyung for help.
He surely was different from the crowd.
Now, Seungcheol sees Jimin eating lunch by himself at the corner of the classroom, reading his book, immersed in his own world.
“So… how’s Jimin like in the dorms?” Seungcheol asks Taehyung as he sees the boy shove the lunch his hyungs cooked for him in his mouth.
“Hm?” He asks with his mouth full, and Jeonghan glares at him.
“Keep your mouth shut when you eat, Tae.” He says slightly annoyed.
“Sorry...” Taehyung clears his throat. “Hm… I guess he’s quiet. He cooks with Seokjin hyung, plays games with me and Kookie occasionally, and runs every day with Hoseok hyung.” He puts it simply. “I invited him to eat lunch with us today, but he said he wanted to finish his book. Gosh, I swear he’s almost as hermit-y as Jungkook.”
Seungcheol laughs. He was glad Taehyung seemed more comfortable with Jimin now.
“I think I’m gonna try it.” Jimin says on their daily night run. “I think I’m going to sing in my range tomorrow…”
Hoseok felt his heart pounding proudly.
“You’re really going to?” He asks in surprise. He literally begged him not to tell the others that night in the studio. Jimin nods.
“Yeah. I shouldn’t be scared if I—I… want to be part of your dream, right?”
The boy looks up to Hoseok with innocent eyes. It’s okay to be scared. Hoseok wants to say, but the words are stuck in the back of his throat. Instead, he reaches for the boy’s soft cheeks and squeezes them lovingly.
“You’re so brave, Jiminie.” Hoseok ruffles the younger boy’s hair. “Hyung is super proud of you.”
Running her way back, Jimin overhears Hoseok humming a casual tune. Back to the singing grind huh… She thinks to herself. She loved listening to others sing, but she never really liked doing it herself. Her voice gave her an inferiority complex. She didn’t like the slight scratchiness in her throat and airy breaths she took. And… it was a risk for her; it could give her gender away.
I never really got my voice back after the incident… She went mute for a couple years after that, after all. Her vocal chords never returned to their original conditions.
She shakes her head as the screams and flames and bricks and glares and blood and glass… all reappear in front of her eyes. Don’t get caught up… don’t get caught up… She thinks of the good times within the bad… Jihoon and Eunbi. Eunbi and Jihoon… Her two childhood friends. Two of the few people who knew her past and present, who felt like home and who she thought most fondly of. They were the good times…
It was Jihoon who made me love music again, and Eunbi who got me into dance. She thinks, distracting herself from the sudden attack of thoughts. Hmm. I wonder how he’s doing… She continues. They had lost contact as soon they parted ways in Seoul. She’d heard he had made it into a company as well… Starship was it? She couldn’t quite remember…
The tiny boy from Busan who helped her through the trauma and stress, despite his own loss and grief. The healer with warm, pale hands and kind, thoughtful words. The genius who came up with piles upon piles of melodies in his head. Jihoon…
She feels her heart gradually slowing down and inhales a deep breath.
“It looks like you were caught up in a moment…” Hoseok says, jogging by her side. “You good??”
“uh…Yea… just remembering an old friend.”
Jihoon (Seventeen’s Woozi) side
It bothered him. There was no way… No way in hell that Jimin was at my school. No way in hell… Yet, a certain transfer student a year his senior couldn’t help but remind him of his old best friend. The plump lips. The books he read in the courtyard alone. His walk. His stubby fingers. The kind eyes that looked to the distant. But Jimin was a girl, and rumor had it that she was attending one of the most prestigious all-girl’s school on a full scholarship. There wasn’t a way she’d be attending Korea arts… And when they’d run into each other in the bathroom, he’d called him a ghost and “Yoongi-sshi”… There was no way he recognized him, a stranger. I’ve lost all contact with Jimin and Eunbi both… I know I should’ve secretly kept their phone numbers when Pledis took my phone away… He thinks to himself.
Jihoon taps his notepad blankly and stares at the now-dark computer screen. Inspiration… Inspiration… He felt so bothered and curious about the Jimin look-alike that he could concentrate on his work. He closes his eyes and imagines Eunbi’s wide smile and Jimin’s awkward giggles. The way they’d laughed and cried and got all muddy playing together. Then, he remembers the further past. The fire and the accident and the funerals and the tears… the misery. She was the one who smiled when I played my piano for the first time in years, wasn’t she? The day he was planning to go and see his parents…
Jihoon smiles. Eunbi and Jimin were his reason to work his ass off every single day at Pledis. If it weren’t for them, I would be……
He hears the studio door suddenly open, to see Seungcheol with a concerned look on his face. The older boy runs up to him, cupping his hands around his cheeks. Jihoon doesn’t back away like he usually does. Shit… am I crying?
“Hoon-ah… are you alright? You’re… you’re sorta tearing up.”
“M fine hyung… I was just… just yawning.”
Chapter 13: insecure
The day is Thursday. Vocal lessons and daily dance training. Mr. Ko 101…
“Mr. Ko… could it be possible if I sang in a higher range?” Jimin had said at the beginning of vocal lessons today. At first, the vocal boys had no clue what Jimin meant, but when they heard him
singing with a beautiful falsetto, it clicked. Unlike the days before, Jimin sang with an air of tranquility. He sounded angelic.
“Why were you hiding this range from me?” Mr. Ko asks Jimin. Jimin seems surprised to finally be getting some positive feedback from the man.
“…I never tried hiding it from you sir,” Jimin starts. “I didn’t think my high notes were necessary.” Jungkook feels a twang of annoyance in his chest. Why would he ashamed of his voice?? It’s beautiful. Why would he even compare... But Jimin genuinely speaks those words with his honest eyes looking straight into the teacher’s gaze. “I’m sorry… I will try my hardest to learn to blend into the other better voices.”
Jungkook feels Seokjin evidently frowning beside him. “…Self-esteem trouble… huh,” Seokjin whispers quietly. The older boy stands up from his position on the floor to envelop the younger boy in a warm hug.
“Jimin-ah,” Seokjin says in his honey-melting voice. “That was amazing! I can’t wait to hear more of it.” Jimin looks up surprised and flustered, but soon his eyes curl into tiny little crescents.
Soon, Taehyung joins in on the hugging and makes the shorter boy smile even more.
Jungkook wanted to join them, but he legs felt weak. Your voice is great. He wanted to praise him.
The words never make it to his mouth.
Hoseok was right… “They… didn’t hate my voice.” She smiles to herself. Her words echo in the lonely shower room. They didn’t hate her voice… Even better, they praised her for it. Even before the cross-dressing situation, Jimin never felt strongly about her voice. Dance fit better on her skin. After the situation, she felt even more self-conscious. A boy with a high, whiny voice? Never. She had thought. But they didn’t hate it. “They said… they like it.”
She wipes the foggy mirrors with a bath towel and finds herself creepily smiling to herself. She quickly looks away. She looks up again. Ugh, I’m still creepy-smiling. She looks down again and repeats the process again, trying to keep a straight face.
Seventh try, and she gives up. She couldn’t help the smiling. She felt so warm and……loved. Jimin repeatedly told herself that Seokjin and Taehyung’s embraces were nothing more than a sign of simple guy-to-guy communication. They were friendly gestures she often saw other boys doing with their friends... But it felt so nice and comforting…
The simple phrase continues to ring in the back of Seokjin’s head. He smiles as he cuts the vegetables on his cutting board. Jimin was slowly opening up to them, little by little. It was the greatest feeling.
“You’re creepy-smiling again.” Namjoon says as he walks over to Seokjin and gives his hyung a little squeeze in the shoulders. “Don’t think you’re his favorite. He’s called me hyung a few times too…” Namjoon says jokingly.
“Yah… I will always be the favorite. I am everyone’s favorite hyung,” Seokjin retorts, his lips pouting. “Without me, you guys would’ve died of malnutrition before debut.” He says and Namjoon nods.
“Sure hyung, sure.”
Seokjin rolls his eyes sarcastically as Namjoon reaches over to ruffle his bangs, dimples showing.
Chapter 14: hm...
Jimin sits on the couch with her legs folded up as she reads her latest book. She rests her chin on her knees and reads intently, only to notice Yoongi looking down at her.
“Is… something wrong?” She squeaks... I’m still so nervous in front of him… he seems so intimidating.
“…Nothing.” The older boy mumbles. He rubs his eyes sleepily. “Was just wondering what you were reading.” He says and looks intently at the pages. “The formatting looked familiar.”
He reads? Jimin thinks to herself. That was surprising.
“Well, Uh… it’s by Ursula K. Le Guin… I really like her work.” Jimin starts shyly. The book was one of her father’s favorites. When she found it at the school library a few days ago, she decided to check it out.
“Hm… Omelas.” Yoongi says, seeming slightly interested.
“You… you’ve read it too?”
“Sure, I’ve read it.” Yoongi nods. “It’s hard to wrap your head around the concept though.” Jimin nods. It was. A single boy’s misery was the sole reason the utopia was sustained. To save the boy, society could be destroyed. To betray the boy, people found themselves living with an overwhelming amount of guilt. There was never an end to the cycle. Never closure. Unless you left all of it.
“I—I don’t quite understand it either…” Jimin sighs.
“I wish someone would just tell the boy in the cell that he’s important…” Yoongi says. “But again, the whole point is that people don’t.”
Jimin finds herself nodding again.
It’s Friday, and apparently Yoongi and Seokjin had planned to start a joint plan to conserve the energy bill. Their first attempt: eat dinner in the candlelight. Not to be criticizing or anything, but… “This is kinda weird?” Namjoon says awkwardly. He sees Jungkook and Taehyung’s shadows nod in agreeance. They were all tired after dance practice. It would be kind of nice to have the lights on?
“I said we’re conserving the energy bill, so we’re conserving the energy bill!” Seokjin says with a cheerful smile. While he shakes his arms excitedly in the air, the candle flame goes out. The others hear Yoongi’s tired sigh.
“…Seokjin Hyung.” He says, tone slightly annoyed. But Seokjin quickly whips out a match and lights the candle again.
“Yah… so tense, Yoongi.” Seokjin teases, then clears his throat. “So, the plan is that if we keep this up for 2 weeks, by Christmas eve we might be able to buy a small turkey.” He says thoughtfully. “I guess I kinda want to keep that tradition with us.” Seokjin shrugs shyly. Namjoon nods. So this is why he was being like this…
Last year, Christmas, all 6 of them had stayed back for Christmas eve to eat dinner together. Seokjin’s mother sent some apple cider, and they had a blast. Namjoon also liked the idea of trying to make Christmas eve turkey a little tradition of theirs.
“Can we also try to save up to buy cake?!?” Taehyung says excitedly. The elders smile.
“Yes, let’s try that too.” Hoseok says with a grin.
“Christmas party?” Jungkook asks with an eager grin, and Yoongi just ruffles the younger’s soft hair.
“Also, no showers longer than 2 minutes and no lights to be turned on before 9 o’clock at night!” Seokjin declares. The others seem to nod understandingly, and now they had a plan.
Then, Namjoon overhears Jimin muttering to herself.
“Christmas… huh.” He hears him say under the loud conversation of the other boys.
“Did you have plans of going back to Busan?” Namjoon asks.
“Hm? …Yeah, I think I might go back on Christmas day.” Namjoon notices the slight awkwardness in the boy’s tone. He’s probably getting a little homesick thinking of his family… Namjoon tells himself. Maybe I should go back to Ilsan too…
“Hey, Park Jimin. Your junior is here to see you!” One of her classmates call to her during lunchbreak. She was in her usual spot reading her novels. Who could it be? She never really had “visitors” besides Taehyung and Seungcheol.
“C—Coming…” She stutters and leaves her seat.
“Ghost boy…” She whispers under her breath. It was the boy who she had mistaken as Yoongi the day Taehyung had toured her around campus. What could he want? And how did he find her? Before she could even start the conversation, the boy pushed a slip of paper in her hands.
“P--… please come and see me at the north building music room at 4 p.m. after school!”
His face flushed bright red when the people in Jimin’s classroom “oo-ed” and “ahh-ed” in amusement. He bowed slightly before running back to the first-year buildings.
“Got yourself a follower already, huh?” She feels Taehyung nudge her shoulder. She feels her face warm as he smirks at her. Then sees Seungcheol and Jeonghan (who came to eat lunch with the boys) evidently paling. Taehyung also catches their unusual expression.
“Wha—was that who you think it was..?” Seungcheol asks Jeonghan without blinking. Jeonghan swallows and nods slowly.
“I think so…”
“Did you know that kid?” Taehyung asks curiously and the both of them nod.
“That’s our Jihoon… Lee Jihoon.”
Jimin felt her world evidently spinning off of its axis.
Chapter 15: Jihoon
He was still shorter than her. His frame was fragile and thin, but he was grown up. His jawline sharp and shoulders slightly broader than before. He used to be the baby out of the three Busan friends. And now he was matured. How did I not notice him?? Was this why she felt uncomfortable around Yoongi? Because he vaguely reminded her of Jihoon? She could hardly recognize him anymore.
But the crescent eyes and the childish giggle were there. It was Jihoon. And the moment she made eye contact with him standing near the wooden piano in the old music room, she felt herself choking up a little. It was Jihoon.
The two old friends just stared at each other for a while. It didn’t feel real to either of them… It’d been almost 3 years. The moment she approaches the boy, she starts feeling her fingers tremble, and she falls… falls into his embrace.
And he holds her gently. Softly.
And with so much love and care and joy and kindness that she couldn’t help but hug him back.
“I missed you so fucking much, Min-ah. You probably can’t even imagine it.” Jihoon says, language as bad as ever. His voice was rough and manly. Not the soft pre-pubescent voice.
“I’ve told you. If you wanna be an idol, you gotta fix that sailor’s mouth of yours.” Jimin giggles, rubbing the boy’s soft cheeks. “And it’s ‘hyung’ to you, butthole.” She smirks.
“I don’t even want to hear about how you got into this mess.” Jihoon shakes his head. “C’mere hyung.” He smiles and hugs her again. Gently. Softly.
“You’re still such a softy, Hoon-ah.”
“Shut up, …hyung”
She stood in front of him, smiling, giggling. She was in his arms. She was there. She was alive and well. Jimin was there with him again, and Jihoon had never felt more relieved.
Just remembering the girl’s crescent eyes and toothy grin made Jihoon find himself creepy-smiling at the dinner table. Come to think of it, it had been quite a while since Jihoon had laughed so much that his cheeks hurt. He tenderly rubbed his sore cheeks before continuing to eat.
“So…. How was it...” Seungcheol starts awkwardly at the silent dinner table. Jihoon looks up, only to find countless eyes on him.
“How was what?” He asks in his regular sarcastic tone.
Only to find his hyung uncomfortably mumble, “The… the confession.”
It took a short while for Jihoon to process the elder boy’s question, only for him to find his dormmates asking and prying for the so-called ‘lucky one.’ Ugh. So nosy.
Shoot… they don’t know that Jimin’s a girl. What should I tell them? Jimin told me not to tell anyone about how we knew each other from back when we lived in Busan. Do I play along and say that I like guy Jimin?? But would it make things awkward between me and her?
Jihoon internally clutches his head and takes a deep breath.
“He rejected me, hyung.” Jihoon lies, kicking himself for starting a mess he’d have to deal with. “But I think I’ve got a chance. He invited me for lunch tomorrow.” Jihoon tries to put on his best smug smile, and again, he sees the countless eyes staring, watching. Chan and Samuel’s eyes evidently widen. So do Seungcheol’s.
“So, Jimin is gay? He likes boys too?”
“Uh… yeah. Er… he said he’s only dated girls, but I’m an exception since I’m soft and cute.” Nice save… Jihoon tells himself.
Even if it was his loving hyungs, he’d never want them trying to ask his Jimin “hyung” out.
“Ew… Seungcheolie hyung. Stay in your lane and keep crushing on Ren sunbae.” Jihoon taunts mockingly. He catches a hint of red on his hyung’s ears.
“Bit-…. Shut your mouth, Lee Jihoon!” But Jihoon sticks his tongue out and smiles. “You brat!”
Chapter 16: Fine
Dance practice ends early, and Jimin sneaks out of the dorms for some fresh air.
No running probably for another week. Hoseok hyung seems a little sick.
So, she decides to walk over to the town library.
They said they wanted to save up to buy a tiny convenience store turkey with a half-gallon of ice cream… Tae and Jungkook… They seemed so excited.
For some reason, she felt like she was burdening them. Apparently, the monthly allowance that they were given from the company hadn’t gone up when Jimin came. They just had to scrape away with the little money they had. Taehyung later mentioned how Seokjin’s parents sometimes aided them financially, and how Seokjin and Yoongi had a fight about whether Yoongi would get a part time job or not. There needs to be something that I could do…. And that something, was tutoring.
She yawned. She was exhausted. But this was worth her time. And… she didn’t want people fighting in the dorm. Especially not about money or food. She remembers the crowded orphanage where she lived and how the older kids got into bloody fights over loaves of bread and left-over graham crackers. She remembered hating it when the older boys fought, not because of their outbursts or because they were, in fact, fighting over her piece of bread, but because the orphanage owner would later shout at them and slap their wrists until they were red and raw. It wasn’t their fault they were always hungry. Jimin had always thought to herself, and she too felt the cold, empty hunger looming over her like a dark shadow.
She shivered as she walked into the library. There was the boy and his mother she’d gotten contact with over text. She put on her most professional smile and walked over to their table.
“You went to study at a café without me?!?” Jungkook overhears Taehyung whine from the kitchen. Jimin hyung must’ve come back… Taehyungie hyung was really quiet just until now.
“You don’t even study though!” He overhears Jimin’s squeaky giggle.
“Yah! Park Jimin”
Jungkook decides to stay in the bedroom… I’d feel awkward standing between their little bubble. He tells himself. He had started finding himself being slightly jealous of Taehyung and Jimin’s relationship. As classmates and group mates, they became two peas in a pod, perfect for each other.… I mean…I shouldn’t really complain… Taehyungie hyung hung out with me because we were the two youngest. I’m just a younger brat… He repeatedly told himself. But he felt lonely anyways.
Middle school sucked. The kids were judgmental and secretive. Competition. Academics. Extracurriculars. No one was honest. No one was truthful or genuine. No one was there for you. And they said it’d get worse in high school… Jungkook’s stomach hurt just thinking of it.
Coming from Busan only a few years back, Jungkook, the shy boy he is, still couldn’t find his niche in school. At Bighit, his hyungs were there for him. But at school, he was all alone. They taunted him for being a “foreigner.” They laughed at him for his imperfect Seoul accent. They wrote on his things when he left early for dance practice. They giggled at his awkward lisp when it was his turn to read in front of the class. The school was not ignorant; they’d recognized the problem and had sent Jungkook to the counseling office multiple times. They were trying to help him. He knew. He knew. But every time, he pushed their offers back. Asking for the help meant contacting Bighit. Worrying his hyungs. Worrying his family.
“I’m so lonely…” Jungkook mumbles to himself and pulls out his Algebra textbook from his schoolbag.
The boy who Jimin tutored, Kim Yugyeom, was a nice kid. He was taller than Jimin (which was probably the one thing she despised), had a cute smile, and was academically oriented; he was smart and social, perfect for tutoring. Just with a strict mother. A stereotypical “Tiger” mom. Yugyeom received a B+ on one of his exams, and poof, Jimin is hired. I mean… I’m getting money for this, so I guess I’m not going to complain…
And Yugyeom was a good kid, he didn’t complain either. My mother was on top of her class in math and sciences. She wanted to be an engineering major, but her parents couldn’t pay for her college funds… So, I know she’s strict, but I’m thankful for her…
‘You’re such a good son, Yugyeom. She may not tell you this very often, but I’m sure she’s really proud.’
Jimin had said to the boy. She watched the boy beam innocently and she smiled. But what am I to tell him about his parents or being a good child? She asked herself.
I don’t know you well, but I think you are one too, sunbae.
Huh, what about me??
You seem like a person to be good son to your parents.
Hmmm… I don’t know Yugyeom-ah. They’ve been gone for a while… I don’t know if they’d smile down on me or if they’d frown.
Oh… sorry, sunbae. I didn’t mean to make things so personal.
Don’t worry. Too long of a time has passed for me to still be hurting. I’m—I’m over it.
Even when the Bighit guys asked her about her family, Jimin tried to keep her lips as tight as possible. Why did I babble to a near stranger? Moreover, a kid??
I don’t know…
I don’t know…
“Minnie, you alright? You’ve been spacing out for a while.”
“Mm… I’m fine, Taetae. I’m fine.”
Chapter 17: love
Jimin was chill about being asked out by a guy. He didn’t seem flustered or surprised. He even seemed quite cheerful about it. They’d never talked about it, but was Jimin into guys? It was a sensitive topic after all… considering Taehyung still couldn’t quite pinpoint himself on the colors of the spectrum.
When Taehyung vaguely hinted about wanting to know what had happened in the music room, he casually brushed the topic off. I don’t even know the person, Tae. How could I be able to date someone like that? He said, ever so innocently. Taehyung couldn’t read between the ambiguous lines. So, did Jimin reject the junior or not?
“Where you goin’?” Taehyung asks Jimin who wasn’t sitting in his usual loner spot near the corner of the room with his books.
Jimin smiles gleefully. “Jihoon’s class.”
Jimin gave that boy a chance? Taehyung suddenly felt his chest squeeze tight. Ouch…
“Don’t play tonsil hockey on the first date!” Taehyung managed to joke. Jimin’s face flushed a slight pink, and he shook his head.
“Don’t worry… it’s not like that Taetae.” Jimin assures him. “And ewwww… What the frick is tonsil hockey?!”
After watching the older 95 liner go, Taehyung goes back to his seat where Jeonghan and Seungcheol sit.
“What’s up with you guys? You look tired.” He asks worriedly. He watches as both of them silently pick at their tuna sandwiches.
“I know Jimin’s not the type, but please don’t let him hurt our Jihoon…” Seungcheol starts weakly.
“It’s Jihoonie’s first crush. He doesn’t want to show it, but I’m sure it took heck of a lot of courage to ask Jimin out and then be rejected…” Seungcheol continues. “Apparently Jimin said that he’s dated girls but never boys and he wouldn’t mind considering dating Jihoon because he’s cute.”
Taehyung tries to nod understandingly, but millions of signals run through his mind.
Jimin had a girlfriend?!
Jimin rejected him but he’s still eating with him?!
That Jimin called someone “cute”??!!??!?!
“Taehyung-ah… If Jimin hurts Jihoon even one bit, I’m gonna—…”
“Ugh, quit with the sulking, drama king Cheol-ah..” Jeonghan rolls his eyes and cuts into Seungcheol’s conversation. “I know Jihoon is your favorite kid, but the kids grow up, you know??” Seungcheol nods quietly as Jeonghan pats his back.
Oof… If this is what’s gonna happen to Jin hyung when Kookie gets a date, I’m gonna throw up.
“It’s gonna be Christmas break soon…Wanna…--want to go back to Busan with me?” Jimin asks while eating his slightly deformed kimbap. Jihoon notices the slight nervous air around the older girl. “You know… we haven’t really placed flowers at their graves for a while.” She adds and Jihoon nods. Eomma… Appa…
Because he was busy with training and producing, Pledis never really gave Jihoon a long enough break for him to go back on their death anniversary… or show his appreciation to Eunbi’s parents on Chuseok.
“I’ll ask my company…” Jihoon says sadly and Jimin smiles understandingly.
“Big companies are strict, huh?” She asks as she pops another kimbap into her mouth. Jihoon purses his lips. “You should’ve applied to Bighit,” she smiles jokingly.
“You should’ve applied to Pledis.” Jihoon responds mockingly, reaching his hand out to ruffle Jimin’s now-short hair. “Then, you wouldn’t have gotten yourself into this whole ass mess.”
“You know I can’t go to big companies, Hoon-ah.” She smiles sadly.
“I know… sorry.”
It felt so nice eating with Jimin again. She knew him. He didn’t have to be nervous about honorifics or breaking any “Seoul manners.” He didn’t even need to really talk. She’d read his expressions and he’d read hers. She was carefree and relaxed (like him) unlike the busy and bustling people of the city. She was like a calm ocean wave. A lazy spring gust of wind. Peaceful powdered snow.
Jimin was home.
“Either way, it’d be pretty nice if we can meet up during Christmas Break.” Jihoon awkwardly returns to the original topic. “You need to take me out for some meat.”
“Please take me out for some meat...”
“No… too risky.”
“There we go.”
He felt like a little kid again when Jimin smiled her toothy grin as she patted the top of his head.
Chapter 18: sick
Hoseok’s breaths are white clouds in the freezing practice room. He sniffs. Ugh this nasty cold just won’t go away will it… He shakes his cluttered head and tries to focus on his choreography.
He keeps messing up at the same spot. His feet get tangled. Same spot. Not improving. His head is throbbing.
Massaging his temples, Hoseok slowly looks up to see his own reflection staring right back at him with a pale face. I look terrible. He sighs. The practice room would be closed for about a week. These few days would be his only time to stay in shape.
The lights suddenly flicker on, and Hoseok winces, holding his hands to his face. He feels a hand softly rubbing his shoulders and he’s sure that’s it’s Seokjin.
“…Jin hyung?” He whispers.
“You’re burning up, Hoseok hyung. You should get some rest.” The voice was soft and melodious. Jimin.
For some reason, Hoseok felt himself relaxing in the younger boy’s arms. He feels his consciousness slowly leaving his body.
PE was the last period of the day, and Jimin decided to leave early and go to the practice rooms. As per usual, Hoseok was there, making art. But today, something seemed off. Jimin knew he was under the weather, but he seemed more than exhausted.
When she steps into the room, Hoseok lets out a tiny squeak. A sneeze, maybe? His shoulders scrunched, and she immediately notices how the older was shaking in the dark practice room.
At the sight of Jimin, Hoseok falls into her arms. Jimin feels the weight crashing down on her, and she stumbles back as she slowly lowers him and herself to place Hoseok’s head on her lap. She feels his heat radiating through her sweatpants. He was much paler than before. Maybe even a little thinner…
Is he asleep??
She asks herself. When she hears his soft breaths, she’s pretty sure everything is going to be all right. He just fell asleep. But I need to contact someone. She fumbles around, fishing through her dance bag for her phone. Shit. I left it in my school desk.
Jimin sighs and looks down at Hoseok’s tired face.
Staring down at his limp body, Jimin suddenly feels her heart pound. Hoseok continues to sleep in her lap, slightly stirring. The more she stares at the unconscious boy, the more anxious she felt… She feels her breath shortening. Rubbing her sore chest, she pats it softly, trying to calm her nerves down.
But the images start flickering in her mind. Limp body. Pale face. Cold feet. Hard eyes. Thick rope. She tries to shake it off, only making it worse. Her breath is cut short and the world spins.
At this point, she’s pretty sure she’s on the verge of a panic attack.
Using the sleeve of her oversized hoodie, she tries to breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe… Her hand is warm with her own breath. She feels the tears trickling down her cheeks. Everything spun.
Park Jimin get yourself together. Hoseok hyung fainted. He isn’t dead. He’s sleeping. He’s just sick. You need to be here for him.
Why are you triggered by this?
But her body wouldn’t listen.
Hoseok stirs, and Jimin notices the older boy shivering again. She bites her lip. Shit… she quickly strips off her big black hoodie and covers the boy’s bare shoulders. Hit by the cold draft in the practice room, Jimin finds herself wrapping her arms around the dancer.
Chapter 19: Bh
Guess who I found in the dance studio today XD
Seokjin types in the group chat after snapping a photo of Jimin and Hoseok sleeping peacefully together in the freezing practice room.
But after getting a closer look, Seokjin notices how flushed Hoseok face is and how Jimin’s sweatshirt was covering Hoseok’s shoulders. This selfless kid… Seokjin shakes his head. Bighit seriously needs a heating system don’t they… it’s freezing. Seokjin deletes the letters.
He frowns after hearing a little sniffle from Jimin. Seokjin couldn’t have two sick kids in the dorms during Christmas. Not when he was planning to go back home during the holidays.
So, he peels off a scarf and down jacket to cover Jimin’s tiny frame. The boy stirs a little and adjusts positions. Jimin’s shirt sags just enough to expose a little bit of his collar bones. Seokjin notices how deeply caved in they are.
Bighit also needs to give us more food expenses…
Having nothing really to do, Seokjin sits down beside the two boys who were tangled in each other’s warmth. Without much thought, Seokjin finds himself stroking Jimin’s soft hair and tracing the boy’s soft features with his fingers. His lips. His cheeks. His round forehead. He’s like a baby when he sleeps… Seokjin giggles. He’s so smol. It must have been Seokjin’s first time to see Jimin’s sleeping face in such detail. Jimin was always the latest to go to bed and the earliest riser after all.
Gee… He must be exhausted…
The older boy talks to himself.
“Kids… I cancelled dance practice for the day. Let’s go back home.”
Yoongi immidiately notices how Jimin acts strangely when he, Seokjin and Hoseok came back to the dorms. He asked Seokjin if something had happened, but Seokjin didn’t seem to know either. If only I was the comforting type… But he wasn’t. So naturally, he just watched the shy little boy from afar.
“Your eyes are kinda puffy Chim. Did something happen in the studio?” Taehyung asks casually.
Wtf are they telepathic or something?
“Mm… Hoseokie hyung fainted and I got a little surprised. That’s all.” Jimin says reluctantly. “I was so useless back there, Taetae... Seokjin hyung cared after him and did such a good job…”
“Aww… Jiminie.” Taehyung says in his deep voice. He sits himself beside the older boy and slings his arm around him. “You probably did a good job. I know you’re the nurturing type. Just having you be by hyung’s side was probably comforting for him.”
“I don’t know Tae…”
Taehyung rubs the boy’s shoulders.
“Were you scared?”
Jimin nods quickly.
“I would’ve been really scared too…”
Yoongi smiles at Taehyung’s awkward but kind words as he tried to comfort Jimin. Jimin’s lucky to have him.
Then, he walks into the bedroom with some pills and water. Yoongi shakes his head.
“How many times have I told you that you need to watch your health, Seok-ah…” Yoongi says in an exaggerated tone. But when he sees Hoseok hugging himself in the thin bedsheets, he feels a bit bad. He looked terrible.
“You’re so mean to me hyung!!” Hoseok tries to say obnoxiously. Yoongi can hear the strain in his voice.
“You know you like it, dummy. And maybe now you know that you should’ve used the hand sanitizer I offer you.” Yoongi says smugly. He also strokes Hoseok’s forehead to check his fever. Probably not over 100 degrees… yet. Hoseok closes his eyes as he feels Yoongi’s cool fingers trace his face but softly swats him away.
“You were dying to nag me about this huh… why can’t you be soft to me like with the maknaes?” Hoseok pouts.
“Because… you’re not? Plus, you can handle my humor” Yoongi pats the younger boy on the back. “I don’t want you to be all frowny and sad during the holidays… c’mon take the meds.”
Jimin couldn’t sleep.
It was either because she was used to the guys sleeping in the order of: Namjoon Seokjin Yoongi Jungkook Hoseok Jimin Taehyung
And being sandwiched between the two most unproblematic sleepers (no snoring, no kicking, etc) of the group…
Or because Jimin was not used to having Yoongi next to her and having him literally bear hug her and wrap his arms around her, completely barricading her from Hoseok and his germs.
Does Yoongi hug Jungkook in his sleep too?
Was a definite, lingering question.
But she also internally cursed at how close Yoongi was. Good thing I kept my wrap around my chest… She tells herself. But ugh it’s so tight. Lying down, she feels like she can barely breathe.
And what if he notices? She couldn’t try to move out of the current position…
Trying to steer her consciousness away from Yoongi’s sandalwood scent, Jimin forces herself to close her eyes. The rising and falling of Yoongi’s stomach are like ocean waves. Slowly, Jimin finds herself drifting away.
Everywhere Jimin looks, she finds smoking buildings and tall flames.
Her chest tightens. The smoke in her eyes make them burn and water.
She hears people calling her name in the distant. Minnie. Minnie.
But she can’t stand. Her legs shake and wobble every time she tries to take a step forward.
She coughs in her ashy hands. The scent of chemical and burn is overwhelming.
Jimin bites down a whimper as she her mother’s cold lifeless body once more. No heartbeat… Just making sure… again.
I need to get out of here.
But her legs still don’t seem to hear her cry.
With her mother’s body in sight, images of her father flash through her mind. He was the first person she found amidst the burning fire with no hope for survival.
Her mother pulled her away, crying, desperate to save at least her beautiful daughter.
But death didn’t discriminate. It took and took and took everyone from Jimin’s life. The home she grew up in was gone. Her mother’s favorite garden. Her father’s prized books.
She feels sick to her stomach. But all she has is emptiness.
Before Jimin can get herself to stand up and crawl out of the burning house, she wakes up in a uncomfortable sweat.
Just a nightmare… She tells herself.
she’s surprised to see the night lamp turned on and Yoongi not in bed.
The clock indicates 4:15 AM.
Too jittery and nervous to go back to sleep, Jimin steps out of bed, carefully stepping over Taehyung without waking him up, and walks towards the kitchen.
“Yoongi hyung?” She whispers. Yoongi’s shoulders jump in surprise. Looking at the way he was rummaging through the cabinets, Jimin assumes he’s down for some early morning snacks.
“… did I wake you up?” He asks apologetically. Jimin shakes her head.
“I’m usually up around this time.” She reminds him. It wasn’t a total lie… right?
“What were you up doing? I was surprise you were awake.” Jimin continues casually. Yoongi falters, but responds.
“Hoseok’s cold meds. They need to be taken every four hours, so I thought he’d want some.” He says coolly.
Jimin notices the worried tone in his voice. She’s surprised to see the caring side of Yoongi like this. Nodding in understanding of the older man, Jimin then grabs a mug to quench her thirst. Before she can take the handle, Yoongi is shoving a warm cup of tea to her hands.
“Here..” He says monotonously. “I thought you’d want it.”
He’s back in the bedroom before he can hear her.
Nice and sweet. Just how Jimin liked it.
Chapter 20: christmas eve eve
The morning kitchen smells wonderful. The kids were off to school and it was nice and quiet. Namjoon and Seokjin sat at the table watching the news on their laptop and Yoongi goes and opens the warm soup pot.
“Hyung… you know how to make this?” He calls to Seokjin in surprise. Seokjin smiles.
“No… Jimin made some for us this morning. I’m surprised at how well he cooks.” Yoongi’s eyes open wide. He immediately grabs a clean bowl from the sink and serves himself.
The taste of home.
“Taehyung must’ve liked it then.” Yoongi comments.
“Had three servings,” Namjoon chuckles. “He eats so much yet he’s still a stick.”
“Can’t relate.” Seokjin sighs.
"Shut up. You’re handsome.” Yoongi retorts.
Meeting Jihoon in the music room had become more of a daily routine to Jimin. While getting the occasional stink stare from Seungcheol when she left the classroom for lunch, she didn’t really mind meeting up and talking one on one with the younger boy. He was family after all. The only family I’ve got besides Eunbi. He was usually the later one to come in, but this time, Jihoon was already waiting by the windowsill, scrolling through things on his laptop.
Sneakily as ever, Jimin tries tip-toeing through the halls and classroom. Slowly… slowly… She’s just a few feet away from Jihoon when she sees the content on his laptop. Hot Korean boys…huh…
She lets out a little giggle, and she sees Jihoon’s world evidently spinning.
Jihoon, now fully attentive, slams his computer lid shut with wide, shocked eyes. .
“You… it’s not what you think” He says, face flushing red in embarrassment. Jimin jokingly flicks his red ears with her finger. Then, setting herself beside the younger, she slings her arm around him.
“Hot korean boys, huh. Why not one of the boy’s in your debut team?” She jokes.
Jihoon shakes his head.
“Stop it, Minnie” he pouts. “I was just…”
“Just trying to enhance your songwriting experience?”
“Yes—I mean—no!!!! Arghhhh Minnie.” He whines. “You know I’m not as confident as you are.”
“What do you mean confident.” Jimin throws her head back laughing. She never intended to hide her relationship with Eunbi to anyone, but she didn’t think she’d be looking confident.
“The confidence literally emanates from you Jimin.” Jihoon rolls his eyes. “Anyone could tell you guys were all over each other back in Busan.”
“Well… currently, we are a straight couple so I guess I can be even more confident.” She laughs. Jihoon groans but stays silent.
“…What’s up?” Jimin asks, finally finished with her teasing.
Jihoon looks up and Jimin is surprised that he has a little smirk on his face.
“I just need to get ahead on my song making,” Jihoon starts. “…So I won’t have to worry about it in Busan.”
This time, Jimin’s eyes widen in surprise.
“They let you??”
Jihoon nods, eyes crinkling into tiny crescents. He holds his arms out wide, and Jimin falls into them.
“Yesss…” She says smiling into the boy’s shoulder.
“We’re goin’ home, Minnie.” He whispers. Jihoon’s happy little giggle was music to Jimin’s ears.
“C’mon Tae…” Jimin urges as they walk through the streets of Seoul. Tae, bundled up in 3 jackets still shivers in his scarf.
“It’s Christmas eve’s eve, Jiminie. What are you so jittery about?” He whines.
“We’re gonna buy some Christmas cake. You’re gonna help me pick stuff out.” She urges. She grins as soon as she sees the younger boy’s eyes start twinkling.
“Cake? I thought we couldn’t get any since we had to use the heater all day yesterday?” Taehyung asks innocently, still not believing what Jimin had said. Jimin shakes her head.
“Well, good thing I made some money tutoring a kid after school.” She smiles. Taehyung’s eyes open wide and before Jimin knows it, she’s wrapped in a big bear hug.
“You’re the best Jiminie! Maybe I should do tu-tor-ing next year too!”
“I don’t know if you can with those grades, Tae.” She giggles as the boy puffs his cheeks, clearly having forgotten the cold.
“Well… you’re the best! Let’s get going!!” The younger boy’s big hands grab Jimin and before she knows it, they’re sprinting to be the first one’s entering the cake shop.
Walking through the streets of Seoul, Jungkook sees two familiar figures in the window of the cake shop. Jimin and Taehyung?
His eyes immediately meet Taehyung’s, and he rushes inside.
“What’chu doing hyungs?” He asks excitedly, adjusting his backpack straps on both of his shoulders.
“Jiminie made some money tutoring so we’re buying Christmas cake!” Taehyung says excitedly. Tutoring? Jimin hyung was just as busy as all of us… when did he have the time to…?
Then, Jungkook remembers the late nights that Jimin came home from the library and random cafes. Ohh…
He had mixed feeling between being thankful, sorry, and joyful. But seeing Jimin smile with his cute little eye crescents after realizing his presence, all Jungkook could feel was warmth in his heart.
Jimin hums with content.
“We ordered key lime and ice cream cake to pick up tomorrow morning.” He giggles. “I think you might like the ice cream.”
On the way back to the dorms, the boys stop by the neighborhood park. The fountain isn’t turned on and not a lot of people seem to be outside. Sitting on the bench, they see a few girls with selfie sticks seemingly vlogging.
“Don’t they look familiar?” Taehyung whispers to Jungkook and he squints in the direction.
“I can’t tell…” Jungkook says and looks away. Not into girls anyways…
“Huh…” Jimin says, slightly tense. “I’m gonna go and say hi.”
Jungkook watches as Taehyung instinctively nods then eyes widening.
“Huh—wait what??” Jungkook spurs, but Jimin is already on his way to greet the girls. Is he crazy?!
I mean— I guess it’s natural for high school boys to be interested in dating and shit… but was Jimin the type to do such f###boy mannerisms? Jungkook certainly didn’t think so.
“Unnie… there’s a boy that keeps on looking at you. Should we stop the camera?” Yewon whispers into Eunbi’s ear.
“No, why would we need to?” Eunbi answers not even turning around. But when she sees who Yewon was talking about, her world freezes for a split second.
“Minnie…?” She hadn’t seen her in forever and she could feel her heart melting with joy.
Had it been more than a few months? She hadn’t seen her girlfriend in person for more days than she could bare.
Jimin gives her a knowing smirk and Eunbi hastily turns her camera off.
“Look who’s busy.” She smiles as she holds out a hand for Eunbi to high five. “Haven’t seen you in ages. How are you?” She asks. She knows Jimin is trying to be the “acquaintance” in front of her other trainee members.
She bows a little to Yewon and Sowon and they timidly bow back.
“Yewonie, Sowon unnie. This is Park Jimin. My friend from Busan.” She introduces. She notices how 2 boys came trailing after Jimin as they talked. “Jiminie… these are my trainee friends. Yewon and Sowon.”
“Hey guys. Nice to meet you.” Jimin says smoothly with a grin. Player… she teases her internally but Jimin pretends to ignore her with a smile. “Tae, Jungkook, this is Eunbi, my longtime friend from Busan. And these are her trainee friends.” Jimin introduces. “This is Taehyung and Jungkook, my dormmates.”
Eunbi notices the slight awkwardness in the boys. The way that Jimin addresses the boys implies that they are about the same age or younger than Jimin. Taehyung seems to be about Jimin’s age and Jungkook looks like he’s in his last years of middle school.
“Thanks for taking care of Jiminie.” She says with a laugh. “sh—… He’s older than me but can be a hassle sometimes.”
Taehyung politely laughs at the comment and shows his boxy grin.
“Chimchim is amazing. We’re glad we have him on our team now.” He smiles. Eunbi notices the embarrassment rising on Jimin’s face. Cute.
They converse for a little, talking about the trainee life, explaining how Eunbi was a former Bighit trainee, etcetera and casually end the conversation.
“You going back to Busan this winter?” Jimin asks casually.
“Yup. Tomorrow by plane.” Eunbi knows that Jimin already knew her answer but she answers anyways. Jimin nods.
“Chill. I’ll stop by your place then.”
“UNNIE… IS THAT THE SECRET BOYFRIEND YOU MENTIONED.” Yewon asks not so secretively.
“…No Yewonie…. He is not the secret boyfriend I mentioned before.” Eunbi deadpans.
Because she’s my secret girlfriend.
Chapter 21: christmas
The mood is nice on Christmas Day. The older boys seemed surprised when Jungkook, Taehyung and Jimin bring a cake home, but they were happy and thankful for it.
The dorm was filled with mouthwatering scents as Seokjin and Yoongi cooked away for the holiday dinner.
It was merry. If Jimin had to put the mood in stereotypical words.
She felt at ease. She talked to Eunbi on the phone after meeting her in the park, and they were excited about hanging out with Jihoon as a squad again. Eunbi promised that she would go to both Jihoon and Jimin’s parents’ graves to give them flowers on Christmas. They had also planned to eat at their favorite fast food place. Jimin couldn’t wait to be back in Busan in a few hours.
She and Jihoon had chosen the night bullet train so they’d be there by next morning. Eunbi was smart enough to save money for a plane ticket, so she was planning to fly in early in the morning after getting some night’s sleep. It’s gonna be so fun… Jimin hums in excitement.
She looks across the room to see the other boys’ expressions.
Namjoon, Seokjin, and Taehyung all had plans to go back home.
Hoseok, Yoongi, and Jungkook decided to stay behind. Shouldn’t Kook be going back to Busan too? She wonders.
But she didn’t want to pry.
You never know what kind of family situation people are in… she tells herself and keeps quiet.
But just as she was setting the table and giving it it’s finishing touches, decorating plates with little ribbons and Santa hats, she notices her phone vibrating on the couch.
“Someone’s calling.” Taehyung says as he passes her the phone. Taehyung eyes the name with an awkward look.
Jimin overlooks it and takes the phone with a grim smile.
“Hello?” Jimin asks. She hears Bang clearing his throat on the other line.
“Jimin-ah.” He starts calmly.
“I know it’s Christmas and you’re going back to Busan, but I just wanted to warn you about some things.” His voice is gruff and serious unlike his usual cheeriness
“By that you mean…?” Jimin asks confused. Was there something wrong? Did someone suspect that she was a girl??
“He‘s back.” Bang pauses. “He’s been calling for the past few months. We haven’t disclosed any information, but it might be around time that he starts sniffing around your hometown.”
“Holy crap…” Jimin feels her mouth go dry. He’s back? A shiver crawls up her spine.
“I know, Jimin.” Bang says understandingly. “He’s got power and he’s not afraid to use it. Please be careful.”
“Screw him and his crazy shit.” He should be rotting in jail by now… Jimin covers her mouth. “…sorry”
She senses eyes on her from across the whole room.
“It’s alright… I feel the same way.” Jimin smiles at Bang’s comment. I always know he can be trusted… “Stay safe and say hi to Eunbi’s parents for me.”
“I will… thanks.”
“Merry Christmas, Jimin-ah.”
Jimin puts her phone down and rocks her head back, looking at the ceiling and sighs. She feels Seokjin’s worrying gaze penetrating her skin.
“It’s nothing, hyung.” She says. The others turn around, attention all on her. “…Really.”
Jungkook watched as one by one the boys in the dorms filed out to see their families on Christmas day. He slumps on the couch and sips his cold hot chocolate.
“You’re really going to stay in the dorms, Jungkook-ah?” Seokjin asks as he weaves his arms through his backpack straps. Jungkook nods, pursing his lips. Jungkook didn’t like Seokjin’s worried face.
“Both my parents are going to be leaving for business trips on the 26th… Plus… They didn’t send any money, so I didn’t have enough for tickets…” He says honestly. Seokjin nods. “…and I don’t want you paying for my ticket hyung…” Seokjin nods again.
“C’mon Kookie. Pack your bag.” He says casually.
Was this hyung listening to what I just said??
“You’re coming over to Christmas dinner at my house.”
“Hyu--…” Seokjin silences the boy by squishing his cheeks.
Jungkook remembers the time when he first came up to Seoul to live his life as a trainee. He wanted to go home more than anything. The homesickness was unbearable for him and communicating with kids his age was a struggle. It was Seokjin who took him in, along with his awkwardness and insecurities, with open arms and showed him the city. Seokjin took him around Seoul and showed Jungkook the nooks and crannies of the town—Seokjin’s favorite pastry store, the cheapest place to buy gently used textbooks, and even the lucky egg statue that Seokjin tried convincing Jungkook to rub for “good luck.” Seokjin was by his side from the start… and even now…
“My parents love your company, Kookie.” Seokjin reassures him, and Jungkook is tugged into the bedroom. “Let’s pack you some clothes.”
Chapter 22: Love
The train ride is quiet. Jimin reads her book, quietly humming a tune under the roar of the tracks.
Going home… huh. Jihoon thinks to himself. It had been way too long since he’d last gone back to Busan.
For him, Christmas had become a time of grief and remembering-- especially during times when he trained like any other day during the holidays. He felt the memories of his parents’ death creeping up his throat and suffocating him, drowning in conflicted anger and sadness. They were never ‘good parents’ Jihoon had repeatedly told himself. But they were still his parents. Like a baby bird that returns to his mother no matter how many times she pushes him out of the nest, Jihoon still carried a part of innocent, unwavering love for them. And…I should at least say hi to them on their death anniversary. It was the respectful thing to do.
“What are you thinking about?” Jimin asks quietly. Jihoon looks at the older girl with a smile.
“Just about how I haven’t gone back home enough to say hi to my parents.”
“Me too…” She says blankly. “I also didn’t think we’d get to go back together again, to be honest.” Jihoon laughs.
“Last year, when Pledis made all the trainees stay to practice during Christmas, I felt the same way.”
“Your darn company…they really did that to you huh…” Jimin shakes her head.
“Besides that, they are good to me” Jihoon says in defense. “They’re the reason why I’m not a high school dropout.” Jimin sighs, patting Jihoon’s shoulders.
“You know that you have all the rights to be upset if you feel mistreated.”
“I know” Jihoon nods and he tries to change the subject. “…for the past few years, during this time of year, I felt so fucking lonely. You know? I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t tell anyone about my situation. I was just so alone.” The older girl frowns. “And… they weren’t perfect people… but I missed them even more.”
Jimin’s soft hands rub Jihoon’s nape. Jihoon can see the sad smile that is drawn on her lips.
“Me too….” Jihoon is drawn into her small frame, into a warm embrace. He clenches his jaw as Jimin rubs circles into his back, slowly patting and comforting. “I’m sorry I didn’t try harder to find you… I was so scared of running into…”
Jimin’s voice cracks a little.
Jihoon shakes his head. It’s not your fault. He wants to say, but the words don’t reach his lips.
They sit in silence.
“I love you. You know that?” Jimin whispers tenderly.
The three simple words fall from the sky and pierce him straight in the heart.
Jimin always had the right words to say at the right time.
TRIGGER WARNING: Death, (some) abuse
The pain that Jimin sees in her best friend’s eyes is real. He’d been hurting all by himself. And it’s devastating to see such deep, raw sorrow exist in Jihoon. He didn’t deserve it. He is good. He is kind.
Seeing him already vulnerable, Jimin decides to keep quiet about what Bang had told her on the phone. She never liked talking about the incident anyways. And… she was scared that Jihoon, deep down inside, despised her for what had happened that night so many years ago. It was her fault, after all.
In psychology class, Jimin learned that memories faded over time. Things people remember so clearly now, could be no different from a speck of dust in a couple of years. The pain of a breakup is replaced by the love for a new person, and that 60% on an English quiz wasn’t the end of the world after all. Or that was how Mr. Song had explained it to the class.
Jimin felt like she had overturned all that logic.
The longer she let the memories of the incident sit in her mind, the heavier the burden and guilt fell on her shoulders. The self-hatred only grew after realizing that there was so much she could’ve done to prevent the deaths. It slowly killed her.
People could say that Jimin was a musical elite when she lived with her parents back in Busan. Her father was a retired orchestra conductor for the Berlin Phil who took after his grandfather’s world-renowned string instrument making business, and her mother was from a line of famous Opera singers. Jimin learned violin, piano, singing, and ballroom dancing from an early age. She went to a private elementary school with the strongest music program in South Korea. She even won the national singing competition and composed her own violin concerto by 3rd grade. Because of her talent, because of her background, because of her work ethic, everywhere she went, people had grand expectations for her. Everyone had high hopes for little Ms. Jimin. That was, everyone except for her parents.
Only if you were my son… Only if you were a boy.
All Jimin’s father cared about was finding an heir to his violin making business. He was power hungry and wanted to dominate the music making industry. He claimed that all his hopes and dreams were crushed because of Jimin and Jimin’s mother’s inability to have a baby boy. Jimin’s father forced Jimin to dress as a boy in public. She was named a unisex name so people wouldn’t suspect that she was a girl. Jimin was never allowed to grow her hair out or wear pink or have a tea party. Jimin’s mother, who was a kind, but weak-hearted woman could only watch as her husband took all control of Jimin’s childhood. Ripping it, searing it apart for his own personal gain.
And Jimin didn’t hold it against them. They were brilliant musicians. They just weren’t very bright parents. She accepted that they were human too. They deserved to live. But she let them slip away from her hands.
It was because I wasn't good enough… I’m never good enough.
He wakes up to the curdling scent of burning wood and flames. Again and again. The same horrendous dream. The reality of it never fades, and it even haunts him throughout the day. He shifts in his bedsheets. The winter air is cold on his bare skin, and it makes him shiver. The same dream of that burning house on Christmas Day.
The dream shifts again. Now he’s looking down from the side of the bridge. He sees the merciless waves of the dark river, and the shining Seoul lights.
He lifts one leg, then another over the metal handrails. The summer gust is cool on his face. He feels as he has no regrets. That is, until he feels a tug on the back of his shirt.
A little girl in a suit and bow tie is looking up at him with questioning eyes.
“Oppa, can you fly?”
The dreams shifts a final time. He feels the smooth texture of the Manila envelope in his left hand. The money he saved up for the past two years. The money that will allow him to take the love of his life home. He’s exhausted, but the excitement and hopefulness overpowers all the aches and pains.
But it all fades again.
The sad eyes of betrayal. Of distrust.
“Go away, oppa. Go away.”
He breaks up in a cold sweat. Gasping, heaving for air.
He bites down on his lower lip. I’m shaking again…and it wasn’t because it was cold.
I’m so empty…
I miss her.
Chapter 23: soft moments
Hoseok was alone in the dorms now. Namjoon, Taehyung, and Jimin were all off to see their families. Seokjin decided to take Jungkook home with him. Yoongi went back to ball up in his studio.
The silence was almost overwhelming. Hoseok’s bright smile had faded. He was exhausted. He’d convinced Seokjin that his condition was better, but in truth, his head was pounding and he felt his fever slowly creeping back.
Hoseok staggers as he walks from the couch to the kitchen sink. He blankly lets the cold water run over his hands.
I'm so tired…
He felt like curling up in a ball.
He’d gone all the way to BigHit, but not a single melody came to his mind. Yoongi sighs, and a cold white breath emerges and fades from his view. He was too embarrassed to admit it, but he was worried for Hoseok.
So, after a half an hour of swiveling in his comfy chair, Yoongi decides to take the bus back home. It was a waste of bus fare… but it was much too cold to walk home in this weather. And Yoongi didn’t want to run into any merry drunk yards on the streets.
Yoongi sighs again. Hoseok was successful in tricking Seokjin that his condition was much better, but ohhh not Yoongi. Yoongi knew.
Yoongi was an observer. And he was a superb one at that. The times he stayed silent in the conversation, he was always watching and listening. The way he instantly noticed a person's small habits and quirks sometimes even surprised himself.
But he knew.
He instinctively knew that the little bite on the lower lip was Jimin’s way of saying he was uncomfortable about something.
He knew that when Jungkook sniffled more than three times in a row, his rhinitis was starting to act up.
He could relate to Taehyung’s destructive habit of picking at the skin on his thumb whenever he was stressed.
When Namjoon started mindlessly poking at his dimples with his fingers, he was starting to have a migraine and needed the peace and quiet.
And when Seokjin started squinting and scrunching his nose, he was exhausted and needed a break.
Some of the signs were subtle. Some were obvious. But Yoongi didn’t know enough about Hoseok’s quirks. Hoseok was an observer like Yoongi, and he adapted himself to each and every person. And while Yoongi was thankful for his younger brother’s careful attention to the other boys, it made it harder for Yoongi to read him, and he disliked that.
But when Hoseok’s smile was a little too forced or when Hoseok jokes a little more than usual, Yoongi saw it as the best first indicator that Hoseok needed some rest.
He just balls up all his stress and ends up getting sick… I swear, he needs to learn some self care. Yoongi mutters under his breath.
When he knocks on the dorm door, no one responds. He checks the time on his phone, and it indicates 1:30AM. That explains…
Yoongi silently unlocks the door. He’s welcomed back by an eerie darkness and the sound of Hoseok’s muffled coughs.
“Seok-ah?” Yoongi walks further into the room. The heater is blasted on full heat, and being hit by the wave of warmth makes Yoongi a bit dizzy. As he walks further into the bedroom, he sees a semi-conscious Hoseok lying on top of Yoongi’s bedspread. The boy is all curled up, resting on his side. Yoongi turns the dimmest lights on. It’s almost instant regret when he sees the boy's sickly face. Damn it… I shouldn’t have left in the first place.
“Seok-ah…” Yoongi repeats. This time, he sees Hoseok slightly open his heavy eyelids. Yoongi kneels by the bed to peer into the younger boy’s gaze. His eyes are glossy, and just from the flushed cheeks and pink skin, Yoongi can tell that Hoseok’s fever is back.
“I think it’s time to take your meds.” Yoongi whispers softly. Yoongi waits for a affirming moan or a little nod, but this time, Hoseok shake his head and pouts his lips.
“No hyungie…no meds…” Hoseok whimpers. Yoongi sees the tears dotted on Hoseok’s curled lashes, and he can feel his own heart clenching a little. He runs his hands through the younger boys damp hair.
“Aw c’mon Hoseok-ah…” Yoongi says softly. “I promise it’s gonna help.”
The cab ride to Seokjin’s house is silent. Silent, as in Jungkook instantly falling asleep on Seokjin’s shoulders the moment they enter the cab. Seokjin can’t help but giggle at the younger boy’s innocent mannerisms. He’s such a baby. Seokjin smiles. He shifts so that the boy can lay on Seokjin’s lap in a more comfortable position. The boy stirs a little, but continues along in his deep slumber.
“Going home for the holidays eh?” The cab driver asks. From the slurred words, Seokjin detects a waft of Busan on the driver’s tongue.
Seokjin politely answers yes.
“Being so young as you are…” The man clicks his tongue. “You’re a good big brother to him, aren’t ya.”
Seokjin smiles and shakes his head. “I’m not as good as I should be” he answers modestly.
He nervously runs his hands through Jungkook’s soft hair.
The taxi man continues on with his chatter, but Seokjin fazes it out as he watches the winter scenery pass by.
He sighs. He’s so exhausted that he wants to rest his head on Jungkook’s and just… fall… asleep……
But he doesn’t… it’s only a 11 minute drive after all. And he didn’t trust taxis all that much because they could take the long way there for a higher fare if he’d fallen asleep.
So Seokjin sits back and sighs again. His heart aches for Jungkook. He’s only a middle schooler, and his parents don’t care enough to let him come home for the holidays… how terrible was that?
Seokjin grew up in a loving family with a supportive older brother. He grew up without any worry of being able to eat tomorrow or being distanced from family. When he first came to the dorms, he was in utter culture shock. Taehyung said that his grandparents raised him. Yoongi said his parents disowned him for continuing music. Hoseok and Namjoon were performing in the undergrounds since they were as young as Jungkook. And Jimin didn’t seem too keen in mentioning anything about his family. His chest hurts just to think of the hardships they’d all gone through. And how privileged he was…
I don’t pity them though… he thinks to himself. I have no right to pity.
Because they are trying to live their lives to the fullest with what they have, and they are doing exactly that.
I just need to do the best with what I’m given as well…
And so, in Seokjin’s mind, what he could do was to practice hard, care for the boys when they needed him, and love them in the way that they wanted him to.
And taking Jungkook home for the holidays was Seokjin’s way of demonstrating the love he had for the younger boy. He works hard. He deserves it.
His parents got him a bonsai tree for Christmas.
A bonsai tree. And they named it "Namu." Which literally means "tree" in Korean. He was delighted.
At home, Namjoon felt at ease. His parents gave him a bonsai tree, and it was okay for him to love it. His parents know his likings, and they cherish him for it. And Namjoon is comfortable showing that part of himself.
In the dorms, Namjoon sometimes feels like he can't breathe. He feels like he can't keep up with Yoongi's swagger and Hoseok's badass stage presence. He feels like he can't keep up with the rapper "image." He loves all the other rapper boys, but he just never felt "masculine" enough or tough enough to stand beside them.
He'd always had trouble addressing the concept of "masculinity." He was never particularly good at the "boy sports" that a lot of parents pushed their sons to do. He liked poetry and philosophy better than reading about power rangers or dinosaurs. He'd liked boys since forever, and "girly" colors weren't necessarily bothersome to him. He never liked hot-headed competitions and getting muddy was not something that made him proud. He didn't like guns and trucks like the others. He didn't have the muscular build to show off to his classmates during gym class.
"The concept of masculinity is just straight up toxic," Namjoon had told his father one day in middle school. And his kind, soft-spoken father simply nodded and agreed.
"I just wish other men would go on and realize that too, Joon," He had added thoughtfully. "Then, at least half of the world's evils would disappear."
"You look stressed, son" His father says to him with a pat on the shoulder. "Have some tea. I have fresh leaves from my business trip in China." Namjoon nods and walks over to brew the water.
"I missed you, dad."
Once Jihoon and Jimin arrive, they trudge through the snow and reach the looming building that they'd been looking for: Hwang's Center for Orphaned and Troubled Youth. Their home. Their origin.
As Jimin knocked on the icy gate with her gloved fist, lights flickered and Jimin hears running steps coming towards them. She sees hand-held lamps approaching and two dim shadows hobbling from the distance.
"Hoon-ah! Min-ah!!" She hears, and sees Jihoon's smile evidently widening. "Oh… my babies."
Before Jimin knows it, she's enveloped in a warm embrace by Eunbi's mother and father--their unofficial guardians. The soft smell of cotton and citrus is reminiscent of her childhood days goofing around with Eunbi and Jihoon in the facility. Oh, how she had missed them.
"C'mon. It's cold out here," Eunbi's father says with a grin. She ruffles Jimin's now short hair, and takes her carry case from her hands. Jimin trudges along with the hand-held lamp in hand.
"Is Eunbi here already, ma'am?" Jimin asks politely.
"Of course she is! Just picked her up from the airport." Eunbi's mother says cheerily. "She's showering right now, though." He girlfriend's father winks, and Jimin blushes.
It feels so nice to be back.
They were back at the orphanage. Eunbi was out of the shower now, and the three of them were all huddled in the bedroom that they shared. Eunbi and Jimin had shared a twin bed and Jihoon had a couch bed of his own. It's a little cramped for them now, but it's nostalgic and comfortable. The wall decorations of dragons and castles are still stuck to the wall, and the lit candle in the corner of the room flickered, welcome home. It was so nice to be back.
Jimin and Eunbi were both sitting on the old, rickety twin bed. Eunbi sits in between Jimin's legs, with a book in hand as Jimin diligently dries her girlfriend's hair with a soft smile. Jihoon's heart warms as he sees the cute couple. They were literally perfect for each other. Eunbi's bubbly and energetic personality meshed wonderfully with Jimin's thoughtful and somewhat shy character. And I'm the best third wheel. He sarcastically thinks to himself. Third wheel since day one.
But it was okay… He loved the two girls dearly, and seeing them happy made him genuinely happier.
"Now, you guys can kiss in public without an old, homophobic grandpa coming flying at you," Jihoon playfully comments. He sits beside the two, and the bed gives a loud creak. Jimin snickers.
"I'd purposefully wear my hair extensions to piss him off," She says with a smirk.
"I'd told my parents that you were identifying as male now, but they were surprised at how well you pulled the short hair," Eunbi says with a giggle, looking up from her novel.
"I'm not identifying as male-- er yeah maybe I am…" Jimin mumbles under her breath, running her hair through Eunbi's silky bangs for the last time. She turns the dryer off and tosses it into the basket at the foot of the bed.
"You now how I used to have those days where I felt really uncomfortable with my body and would literally hide in big hoodies?" Jimin starts with a crooked smile. Jihoon nods. "After starting to dress like this, it clicked to me that it was me having gender dysphoria" She shares. Jihoon watches as Eunbi turns to Jimin and plants a kiss on her little nose.
"So that's what it was," she says supportively.
"Mhm…" Jimin nods. Jihoon's eyes meet Jimin's with a smile. "I never knew dressing as a 'boy' would make me feel this way, but now I think I identify as all now… boy, girl, and anything in between."
Jihoon feels the urge to hug the older girl. He felt so proud that Jimin was sharing this with him and Eunbi.
"I…I-wanted to tell you guys… It was on my mind lately." Jimin shifts, looking at down her fingertips. Jihoon reaches out to ruffle Jimin's now short, slick hair.
"Noona," Jihoon musters the courage to say. "Thanks for sharing that with us." Jimin's gaze softens, and her eyes turn up into little crescent shapes.
"Oohh… little Jiminie is finally getting better at sharing her feeling with other people, eh?" Eunbi nudges playfully. She plants another kiss on Jimin's nose, and this time Jimin giggles.
"Alright… now that's off my chest... Shall we say good night to Eunbi mom and dad?" Jimin says with a smile.
Ookie so sorry it was kinda sudden, but now it's revealed a bit? that Jimin is identifying as genderfluid :))
as a genderfluid person myself, I'm kinda happy that I'm able to include this in the narrative hehe
I'm not very knowledgeable about the different terms and different connotations under this non-binary umbrella (I'm Japanese native and the terms are quite different) so please call me out if I'm wrong!